Fastpitch News is in Durham, N.C., for the inaugural weekend of Duke Softball. The program was announced in December 2013 and the Blue Devils host in-state foe North Carolina State in on Saturday. It may be a fall game for some but for Duke, history will be made with the first pitch.
The Duke Diaries will be a running blog of the weekend’s festivities seen through the eyes of our reporter, Maren Angus.
Thursday, September 28, 2017, 6:30 a.m.
Weightlifting begins most mornings around this time. The team follows a workout given to them upon arrival and the girls grind out an hour-long strength session. At the end of the workout is a team challenge called, “Iron Dukes.” Every day features a new challenge and at the end of the week, one of the girls is named the Iron Duke and is awarded a pink shirt.
The Duke Softball Stadium is located on the east side of campus next to field hockey. Today, was a bit of a hectic day for the coaches as they handed out new cleats to the team in hopes of wearing them on Saturday. Sizing just happened to not be on their side for the new cleats but man, do they look sharp!
Practice begins with the coaches and players trying to figure out a pregame routine. The girls stood in a circle and tried high-fives all around clockwise and then counter-clockwise. They ran to the first baseline to line up and then decided to run, touch home plate and sprint to the mound, second base or centerfield depending on the position they were playing.
Practice continued with head coach Marissa Young throwing live to batters for offensive situations. Young was the 2003 Big Ten Player of the Year when she was at Michigan. Lacey Waldrop worked with the pitchers in the bullpen and then practice wrapped around 6 p.m.
The day ended with Zoe’s Kitchen for dinner followed by a leadership exercise. The team’s summer reading assignment was Legacy by James Kerr. The book is about how the legendary New Zealand All Blacks can teach anyone about life, leadership and success.
Friday, September 29, 2017
It’s been a busy week for the Duke softball team as the first game day will be here in a matter of hours. Weightlifting was cancelled this morning to give the girls some extra rest and time to recover from midterm studying.
The softball offices were busy with last minute chores to have ready for the game. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, head coach Marissa Young spent a good chunk of time chatting with me about how she got to Duke and the process of building the team. You can read that here.
The team started to trickle in one-by-one for individuals at the facility. A few players sat and talked to me before their cage time and those will be posted a little later. The excitement filled the room and I could see the look of pure joy on everyone’s faces. It was infectious because I even caught myself smiling a few times.
Kickoff at Wallace Wade Stadium against No. 14-ranked Miami. The first quarter starts and there’s something different in the air. Friday night football under the lights almost brings me to being at a high school game. The team made its way down to the end zone and was introduced in front of thousands of Duke fans. The camera panned to the team, the girls waved and the game information flashed on the scoreboard. This is really happening.
Halftime was around this time and the girls met on the concourse to sign autographs. The marketing team opened the box of posters for the athletes to see and their eyes lit up. After many pictures of the posters were taken, the line began to form and the team signed for the duration of halftime and into the third quarter. Fans of all ages, men and women, boys and girls, wanted a signature from each woman sitting at the tables. They all sat and signed for every person in line and took photos with everyone who asked.
When the line dissolved, the athletes helped put away the tables and chairs and went on their way. They either went back into the stands or back to their room to rest up for what should be a very exciting day.