Depleted Duke baseball roster gets big boost

Jun. 27, 2014 @ 03:57 PM

Departures from last season’s Duke baseball team that made a surprising run to within one win of the ACC Tournament final meant a big bat was needed to replenish the offense.

After a few weeks of uncertainty due to the Major League Baseball Draft, that new power bat is set to join the Blue Devils after all.

Incoming freshman Justin Bellinger, an 11th-round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this month, said Friday that he’s turning down the Cardinals’ contract offer and will report to Duke on Sunday.

Bellinger said the Cardinals made an offer but it was “not enough to pass on an education.”

He added that he was “looking forward” to his college career at Duke, where he’ll begin taking classes in the second summer school session in July.

Duke coach Chris Pollard has said the left-hand hitting Bellinger has the most raw power of any high school hitter he’s ever seen.

That, along with some roster shifting, is good news for the Blue Devils. Duke went 33-25 last season, including a 16-14 ACC record that qualified it for the ACC Tournament for the first time since 2009.

An extra-inning loss to Miami on the final day of pool play kept Duke from playing in the ACC championship game and a shot at the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 1961.

Duke tied for the ACC lead with 33 home runs as a team, but three of the team’s top power hitters won’t be on next year’s squad.

Ryan Deitrich led Duke with nine home runs while hitting .309 during his senior season Third baseman Jordan Betts, a .316 hitter who slugged at .515 and was an all-ACC selection, completed his career and signed with the Boston Red Sox, who picked him in the 18th round. Betts hit five home runs.

Rightfielder and first baseman Chris Marconcini, a second-team all-ACC pick as a redshirt junior, blasted eight home runs and drove in a team-best 46 runs. But Marconcini graduated in May and is transferring to Florida State, where he’ll be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer.

So Bellinger, who went to high school in Massachusetts but has since moved to Southport, will have a chance to step in and help the Blue Devils immediately.