“I felt like we were a fragile team,” Duke Blue Devils head baseball coach Chris Pollard said on Thursday’s SportsTalk with Trey Snide. The Blue Devils were at a crossroads having lost to Louisville. Pollard had watched his team fall behind and not demonstrate the toughness he felt the team needed to turn the 2021 season around. He had a long talk with his team after that loss hoping to instill that sense of toughness. The next game found the Blue Devils fall behind early to Wofford and Pollard’s team, who had not had a come from behind win all season, fought through the early mistakes to win and begin a winning streak that would ultimately continue for 12 games.
While Pollard was pleased with the victory, he felt the team was in a fragile state. Confidence would be built after another come from behind win against Virginia Tech but Pollard says, “Confidence is fleeting. It comes and goes.” Pollard felt that confidence is good, competitiveness is better and that’s what the Blue Devils needed. Duke’s confidence and competitiveness continued to increase and Duke not only found itself in the ACC Tournament, which wasn’t a guarantee earlier in the season, but winning the tournament championship, the first ACC Baseball Championship in the schools history.
That tournament victory propelled Duke into a second seed in the NCAA tournament. However, Pollard feels like the Blue Devils were a spent force physically and emotionally after the ACC Tournament. They ran into a hot Liberty team that beat the Blue Devils in both games. Pollard said he was not happy with how the team performed and says Duke was “not ready.” However, Pollard also says he is very proud of what the Blue Devils accomplished this season.
Even though the season didn’t end with a bang, having five draft picks taken in the first twenty rounds of the Major League Baseball draft gives his program at Duke validation. The team’s players are also working over the summer in different summer leagues to improve and be ready for next year. Pollard feels there are areas that Duke can improve. While technology now exists to help players become better hitters, he says that has taken away from teaching fundamentals. Pollard says he and other coaches need to get back to working on basics like base running. He also says players need to practice. Pollard explains that many players “play but don’t practice enough.”
Pollard is also concerned that players have become year round baseball players. Players should play other sports and not just concentrate on baseball for the entire year. He wants to see kids step away from that mentality.
Pollard has been Duke’s head baseball coach since 2013 compiling a 278-199 record. He reached 100 wins faster than any other coach in the history of Duke Blue Devil baseball.
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