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2016 Columbia Regional Preview: #3 Seed Duke Blue Devils

Duke heads to Founders Park this weekend for their first postseason appearance in over 50 years

The Duke Blue Devils will visit Founders Park as the #3 seed in the Columbia Regional and will play in the opening game of the regional against #2 seed UNC-Wilmington. This will be the first NCAA Tournament appearance for the Blue Devils since 1961 and is the sixth tournament appearance in program history.

Duke has an overall record of 33-22 (14-15 ACC) and they finished third in the Coastal division of the ACC. Despite the losing conference record, Duke had series wins against several strong ACC teams, including Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Florida State. Duke earned their spot in the NCAA Tournament with a strong finish to the season, winning every non-conference game in April and May and winning 9 of their last 10 games of the regular season.

The team batting average for the Blue Devils is .264 and the team has a .346 on-base percentage and 26 home runs on the year. Justin Bellinger (.336/.417/.552) leads Duke in batting average and is second on the team in both RBI (31) and home runs (6). The home run leader for the Blue Devils is Jack Labosky (.296/.426/.529), who has 8 homers this season and also leads the team in RBI with 46. Jimmy Herron (.328/.421/.448) is the only Duke player besides Bellinger hitting over .300. Herron is a threat on the base paths as his 24 stolen bases in 28 attempts accounts for more than a third of the team's total stolen bases.

Duke has had a strong defense this year and comes into the tournament with a .976 fielding percentage. The Blue Devils have a 3.65 ERA and a 2.26 strikeout-to-walk ratio with opponents hitting .252 against them. They have a solid weekend pitching rotation with Kellon Urbon (2.87 ERA), Trent Swart (3.45 ERA) and Brian McAfee (3.40 ERA).

Despite a loss to Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament, Duke is on a hot streak entering this weekend's Regional and they've waited a long time to get a crack at the NCAA Tournament again. The Blue Devils have also faced plenty of postseason-caliber teams over the course of the season. While the SEC, with its 4 national seeds and 7 Regional hosts, was arguably the strongest conference this season, the ACC was the deepest. Ten ACC teams made the NCAA Tournament and an eleventh team, UNC, was one of the first teams out. Duke has faced plenty of good competition this year and won't be intimidated by the teams in the Columbia Regional.

Duke's SB Nation site is Duke Basketball Report and you can learn more about their baseball team on their athletic site and by checking them out on Facebook and Twitter.