Dukes set to return to diamond for second half of season

Joseph Sykes | Asst. Sports Editor

In just their second season as members of the National Club Baseball Association, Duquesne’s team has been making some serious strides.

The Dukes, who kick off the second half of their season this weekend against Saint Francis University, are the first Duquesne-affiliated baseball team to represent the University since the school cut their NCAA program back in 2010 along with men’s swimming, wrestling and golf.

Founded by the now-graduated Christian Berry and current team president and senior George Hensler in 2013, the Dukes find themselves playing in the challenging, yet exciting second division of the NCBA. Within the division, the Dukes are members of the District-V conference where they play alongside West Virginia, Carnegie Mellon, California (PA) and Robert Morris.

The NCBA itself is the largest governing body of club baseball in the United States. Like other club sports leagues, it offers college students the opportunity to play the game of baseball if their university doesn’t field an NCAA program or if enough students are available to form a second team.

Both the season and game formats in the NCAB are slightly different to how the professional leagues and the NCAA handle it. Senior pitcher Scott Sutter explains the differences, which includes a split season and shortened games.

“There’s two parts to the season,” Sutter said. “We play in the fall and we play in the spring and then if your record is good enough, you’re able to make the playoffs. We play seven innings rather than nine.”

Now that the men have found their niche within the NCBA, it’s time for the Dukes to build a winning organization. According to Hensler, a senior, the Red & Blue have all the necessary pieces needed to create a thriving organization like having a home field and a bench boss.

“Our coach is Ken Barna and he’s a volunteer coach from Pittsburgh,” Hensler, a starting pitcher, said. “We have a field out in Baldwin that we share with Baldwin High School where we play our home games too.”

Sophomore second baseman Garrett DeOre believes his team has the ability to create a late-season surge that will get them into the playoffs. This is due to the team’s solid pitching display.

“We went 4-5 in the fall and we’re hoping for a strong push here in spring,” DeOre said. “We have a lot of great pitchers on our team. This is one of the leagues where great pitching is absolutely necessary for success.”

Sutter agrees.

“If we win two out of these three series coming up, we’ll make the playoffs,” he said. “We’re right there.”

This spring, the Dukes will play three series of games before playoffs begin in April. Each regular season series may consist of two or three games. A team wins a series by winning the majority of the games in it, which the Dukes will most likely have to do to make it to the D-II tournament. The final three series of the season will be against Saint Francis, which comes this weekend, then against Robert Morris and WVU. All games will be on the road.

According to Hensler, both Saint Francis and Duquesne are still searching for a field for the Dukes’ away matchup this weekend, which means the days and times for the series against the Red Flash are still under consideration.