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Duke Baseball Head Coach Chris Pollard on playing UNCW in NCAA Conway Regional

The Adam Gold Show / Adam Gold
The Truth Network Radio
May 31, 2023 2:45 pm

Duke Baseball Head Coach Chris Pollard on playing UNCW in NCAA Conway Regional

The Adam Gold Show / Adam Gold

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May 31, 2023 2:45 pm

Duke Baseball Head Coach Chris Pollard joined Adam to preview the Blue Devils' first game against UNCW in the Conway Regional this Friday. He shares how he felt his team was in a position to host a regional at one point this season, but how he’s glad travel won’t play too much of a factor. He also discusses the strength of his bullpen this season and what he feels the foundation of Duke baseball has been built on.


The Drive with Josh Graham
Josh Graham

Along our hockey travels this year, the college baseball tournament has happened, and we are here.

Starting Friday, 1 o'clock, Duke will take on UNC Wilmington. They are down in, I would say Myrtle Beach, it's not technically Myrtle Beach, right? But they are at the Coastal Carolina region, I guess it's Myrtle Beach. They don't have a green baseball field, or rather a blue baseball field, I don't believe, do they?

Thankfully not. And we are joined by Duke head baseball coach Chris Pollard. I apologize first for not being in touch more during the season. We were a little busy with the Carolina Hurricanes, but I know you guys had a great year. How you doing? I'm good. Thanks for having me on.

Pleasure is mine. You guys were, at one point, I looked down in the top 25 rankings, and I see Wake at number 1 and Duke at number 10, and I thought, man, I am missing out on a spectacular season. I know it didn't go as well for you in the last few weeks, but man, you had so many series wins on the road in this league. I mean, you were probably in line to be a host at one point this season.

Yeah, I think going into May, wrapping up the month of April, heading into exams, and then coming out of exams in the month of May, I think we were in a great position to host. Candidly, that's been a frustrating part of the last couple of weeks to know that we had done everything we needed to do with just a few weekends to go in the season. And we just haven't played quite well enough against some really good opponents down the stretch, and played in a lot of close games.

But some of that, I think, candidly, Adam, we struggled dealing with the weight of trying to finish the job. I think Duke's never hosted a regional, and I think we looked up at the end of April and said, man, we're in a position to do something that's never been done here, and I think we changed our approach a little bit, and that's on me, and that'll be a tough offseason lesson that I'll have to work through. But nonetheless, we put ourselves in a position to be one of the final 64 teams playing, and we're really proud of that. Now that weight of trying to earn a host spot is over with, and we can just go play baseball. Can you feel yourself in that position where maybe the focus starts to be on things that aren't conducive to playing your best baseball?

100%. We talk a lot in our program about avoiding the rat poison and not getting wrapped up in what's being said on social media or rankings or all those things that can start to become distractions at the end of the year. We talk about it, and you can emphasize it, but sometimes understanding, we deal with really smart players in our program, and I think an awareness and understanding of where we were, it did seep into our approach some. We played a little bit tighter in the month of May than we needed to or than we had played through the first two-thirds of the season, but again, I think we can look up at this point and say, hey, that's over and done with.

We're under the bridge. Let's get back to being who we are, and let's go out and enjoy being a part of the fact that we're one of the last 64 teams standing. Chris Pollard, Duke baseball coach, is with us, the two seed in the regional at Coastal Carolina in Conway.

You're not worried about your guys spending too much time at the beach, I'm sure. You play UNC Wilmington Friday afternoon. The way your team is set up, are you in some ways because your bullpen is such a strength, maybe the strength of your team over a great offensive team. But in terms of pitching, obviously, your bullpen is your anchor.

Is the format of this better for you because it is so bullpen dependent? I think the fact that we've been forced to build depth over the course of the season because we don't really have the luxury of having true to traditional starters due to some injuries in the front end of our rotation has enabled us to be in a good position to go in and compete in this type of environment. I mean, we're used to a starting pitcher maybe going out there and going an inning or two and then having to piece it together with our bullpen the rest of the way. We've got a lot of pitchers that are really comfortable pitching in a variety of different roles. To win a regional, you've got to have that. Even going back, if you think back to 2018 when we won that regional in Athens and had to come out of the losers bracket to do it, we didn't get a lot of deep starts in our regional. We relied heavily on our bullpen that year and our offense. I think this could be a similar type of format or a similar type of model for this 2023 team.

Chris Pollard is joining us here on the Adam Gold show. I was kind of surprised you're all out of Stinson's. I guess that's inevitable. Sort of like when the basketball team ran out of Plumleys, it happens over time. I've always remarked, I've been kind of amazed by what you have built at Duke. It is so difficult to convince players to pay to play college baseball because you get so little in terms of scholarship help. What has been the backbone of your program? First, to your point, I wish we had a Stinson available to us this weekend.

It would be nice to run a Stinson out there for about five innings. The foundation for the success of the program is the Duke degree. These guys are enamored with, in the recruiting process, the thought of being able to play in the ACC while still pursuing one of the world's best diplomas.

That's always going to be a selling point. Duke's got some cost up front, but that degree is going to pay dividends for a lifetime. We tell recruits it's not a four-year decision, it's a 40-year decision. That's the backbone and the foundation of our recruiting success and the reason why great players want to continue to come and compete at Duke.

Chris Pollard is joining us here on the Adam Gold Show again. They'll take on UNCW Friday afternoon, one o'clock. It's an ESPN Plus game, so subscribe and watch. I don't like the fact that you and State are both playing at the same time. I love both of your teams, both of your programs.

Just your thoughts on the region that you've got. It's nice that you're close enough to home. It's only about a four-hour, three-and-a-half, four-hour drive down to Conway, so I guess you're going to bring some fans and it's not that taxing a trip. Love the fact that we're on a bus and not an airplane.

You're right, it is a short trip. It's a ballpark we've got some familiarity with. We went down in 2021 and opened up the season at Coastal and so we're familiar with the ballpark. It's a beautiful venue.

It's three really good programs and it's neat for me personally. I happen to be good friends with all three of these head coaches, just as luck would have it. Gilly and I have known each other for years and years and years. I have the utmost respect for what he's built at Coastal.

Likewise, I've known Randy Hood for 25 years. The job that he's done of taking UNC Wilmington to an even higher level. They were already good. We played Wilmington in the 2016 regional down in Columbia. They've been good for a long time, but he's been able to come in as head coach and elevate it to just a different gear.

Barry Davis, a rider, feels like he does this every year. Feels like he's got a group of seniors that know how to compete and they win their league and they're dangerous. We played them twice this week in a regular season.

They're an older group that's not scared. They've got a really good back-end closer and they throw a lot of strikes and don't make any mistakes. You've got to earn it if you're going to beat those guys. We've got our hands full. There's no doubt about it.

I tell our guys and I've said this to everybody that's asked me about it. At this point, everybody plays good. If they're still playing, there's a reason they're still playing. We're thrilled to be able to continue our season. This group has been so together. They've been so committed to each other and they've forged a resilience because of how committed they are to each other. I just told them after the selection show on Monday, I said, let's fight like crazy to earn another week together. Your body of work in a regular season has earned you the chance to keep playing for another week. Let's go down to Conway and fight like crazy to get another week together. That's how we'll approach it.

Big picture question. We've got about a minute left with Chris Pollard, Dukehead baseball coach. You mentioned Ryder. They can pitch.

We know that. You split two one-run games with them not that long ago. How much better today is college baseball than it was 15 or 20 years ago?

That's easy. Just look at our league, Adam. Two of the absolute blue bloods of our sport didn't even make the ACC tournament. You've got a program in Florida State that had been to 45 straight NCAA tournaments. You've got a program in Louisville that's a perennial Omaha contender that's coming off a trip to Omaha that are coached by two of the most respected head coaches in all of college baseball. They didn't even play in the ACC tournament. That's no disrespect or knock to those programs. It just speaks to how good our league is and how good the parity is across our sport. It's never been better, but it makes our jobs as coaches running programs tougher.

That's for sure. You're making it look easy, Chris Pollard. Good luck against the Seahawks and good luck in Conway. We will talk to you next week. Thanks for having me on, Adam.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-31 16:50:19 / 2023-05-31 16:54:41 / 4

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