Wake Forest Baseball Roundup

USA TODAY Sports

The Diamond Deacs took the series finale from Florida State and are well-positioned with nine ACC games remaining.

The Diamond Deacs won a critical series finale 5-2 against Florida State on Sunday to avoid a sweep against the 5th-ranked Seminoles. Wake had previously dropped the first two games of the series by scores of 7-1 and 4-3 (in 13 innings). With the series in the books the Deacs move to 25-17 (12-9 ACC) while the Seminoles advanced to 30-9 (16-5 ACC). FSU remains atop the ACC in a three-way tie with Miami and Virginia, while Wake sits in a tie for fifth with Duke only half a game behind Clemson for the fourth spot.

Friday: 7-1 Seminoles

Despite the lopsided score, Friday’s opener was an absolute pitching duel. Starters Luke Weaver and Jack Fischer each gave up only one earned run in a matchup where offense was at a premium until the final inning. Fischer (4-4) went at least eight innings for the fifth time in six conference starts and lowered his ERA to 3.07 despite taking the loss. He has thrown a remarkable 52.1 innings in the conference at this point in the season, trailing only Weaver who has pitched 53.0 innings.

For Weaver it was his second complete game of the season and he was in spectacular command of his fastball throughout. Allowing only three hits and one run, an 8th inning bomb from Nate Mondou, Weaver looked every bit the early-round MLB prospect in a game where several scouts were present to see him pitch in a little bit colder weather. He did not disappoint and one can only imagine his stock rose slightly after what can only be described as a dominant performance.

The turning point of the game occurred in the top of the 5th inning when Florida State had a runner on second with one out and a 1-0 lead. A sharply hit grounder to third baseman Will Craig required a quick throw to first to beat the runner and while the toss went slightly high, pulling first baseman Matt Conway off the bag, he appeared to apply the tag to Danny De La Calle to get the second out of the inning. Instead, De La Calle was called safe, putting runners on the corners with only one out ultimately leading to two more runs coming in and stretching a scoreless game into a 3-0 lead. Wake’s pitching coach Dennis Healy was ejected from the game for arguing the call and manager Tom Walter was engaged in a heated discussion with the umpires before finally retreating to the dugout.

Despite Mondou’s 8th inning home run to carve the lead to 3-1, the Deacs gave up four runs in the top of the 9th and ultimately fell 7-1.

Saturday: 4-3 Seminoles (13th)

Game two featured a similar pitching showdown to Friday as starters John McLeod and Mike Compton each had solid control before the bullpens came in and put the clamps down in the later innings. The Seminoles got to McLeod early on and Walter made the decision to keep him on a quick leash, yanking him from the game after three runs and three innings. Compton went five innings, allowing only two runs, but got a no decision for his efforts.

After staking the Seminoles a 3-0 lead, Wake bounced back with a run each in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to knot the game after seven. Wake’s bullpen was remarkable, allowing only seven hits and one run over the final ten innings but the offense was unable to get the winning run across the plate. Despite putting the leadoff runner on third with one out in the bottom of the 9th and Grant Shambley at the plate, Walter called for a suicide squeeze down the third base line in an attempt to get the winning run in. Rodriguez was thrown out sliding into home and the Deacs went down quietly the rest of the inning.

The Deacs threatened again in the 12th by putting two runners on, but Conor Keniry grounded out to end it. Wake struggled to get anything going against Jameis Winston who went 4.2 innings and allowed only two hits while recording his first win of the year. FSU was finally able to break the deadlock in the top of the 13th against Garrett Kelly before Wake went down in orderly fashion in the bottom half of the frame to secure the series win for the Seminoles.

The top four spots of the lineup combined for seven hits, including three from Conway, despite DH Charlie Morgan going 0-6 in the three spot. Mondou continued his hot weekend with two hits and a walk in six plate appearances.

Sunday: 5-2 Deacs

Wake was able to avoid the three-game sweep on Sunday with a stellar make-shift performance from their pitching staff. Freshman Will Craig, a well-heralded hitter, got the start on the mound and went two innings giving up two runs before the deep bullpen took over from there. The pen combined to pitch seven shutout innings and typical Sunday starter Connor Kaden reversed the roles, pitching two hitless innings with three strikeouts to record his first save of the year.

The Noles were able to put eleven hits on the board, but only converted them into two runs. Meanwhile for Wake, Conor Keniry went two-for-three with two RBI’s and Grant Shambley kicked in two hits and a RBI to ensure the Deacs did not get swept. FSU’s starter, Bryant Holtmann, went 4.2 innings and allowed two runs on four hits before the bullpen took over and ultimately took the loss.

With the win, Wake was able to maintain pace in the conference and avoid a sweep. The Deacs have yet to be swept through the first seven conference series and have a solid chance to finish the conference season above .500 while also reaching 30 wins.

What’s Next?

The Diamond Deacs, who are 46th in RPI, return to action twice this week in a quick two-game series against intra-state rival Charlotte. The 49ers are having a poor year with an 11-24 record and an RPI of 215. Tuesday’s opener is at Wake Forest Baseball Park while Wednesday’s second game is at Charlotte.

Wake is expected to send two freshmen to the mound this week as Connor Johnstone (2-2, 3.08 ERA) and John McCarren (1-0, 0.86 ERA) are the penciled in starters. These two games are must-wins for the Deacs who will look to add to their 25 wins entering this weekend’s critical series against Duke. Charlotte enters the game on a season-long three game winning streak and three straight complete games, so the bullpen should be well-rested. You can watch the game on Wake Forest's All-Access ($$$) or you can listen here to what should be a free broadcast from the Charlotte guys.

The three-game tilt against Duke begins at 6 P.M. in Winston-Salem and is meaningful for a variety of reasons. First and foremost Wake needs to win the series to keep their head above water in the chase for an NCAA Tournament spot. Despite Duke’s 12-9 ACC record, which is tied for fifth with the Deacs, their RPI of 92 leaves a lot to be desired and provides an ample opportunity for Wake to get a big series win from the friendly home confines. Duke has had an up-and-down conference season, getting swept by Pittsburgh before bouncing back to sweep North Carolina and then being swept by Georgia Tech before coming back to take a series from N.C. State and then sweep a slumping Virginia Tech team this past weekend. Duke plays UNCG this week and currently boasts a five game winning streak.

Wake can all but clinch an ACC Tournament spot with a sweep this week as the top six teams are guaranteed a spot in pool play. Wake is clearly well-positioned to finish in the top 10 and get at least one game in Greensboro, but the key number is the 6th position as the seven through ten seeds must play a winner-take-all play-in match simply to get three more games in the Tournament.

For more information on Wake baseball stay tuned to Blogger So Dear as we will have continued comprehensive coverage of the Diamond Deacs. Tonight’s first pitch is scheduled for 6 P.M. and all Wake fans in Winston should make a concerted effort to get out and support the Deacs who need to continue their winning ways against the 49ers. As always, go Deacs.

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