On the heels of back-to-back stellar performances by starting pitchers Jack Fischer and John McLeod, the Deacons took the weekend series against a tough Maryland team. The Deacs won the series opener on Friday night by a 6-4 margin after scoring three runs in the first inning. Friday starter Jack Fischer pitched seven innings while giving up three runs on five hits. Matt Conway went 2-3 with four RBI's, including two home runs in the first and sixth innings.
The Deacs kept up their hot play on Saturday, winning their seventh conference game in a row with a 5-2 win over the Terps. Starter John McLeod picked up where Fischer left off on Friday night by going 6.2 innings giving up eight hits, but ultimately holding Maryland to only one run. McLeod's start was rewarded by the Deacon bats as Wake pelted Maryland's pitching staff for 13 total hits. Conor Keniry hit his first career home run in the second inning to give Wake an early 1-0 lead, and then drove in two runs later in the game on an RBI-single and a sacrifice fly. Aaron Fossas came in late to secure his eighth save of the season.
On Sunday, Wake was unable to secure the series sweep as they fell to Maryland by an 11-3 margin. Even with the loss, Wake ended the series with an overall record of 22-12 (10-5 ACC). Maryland got off to a quick start going up 3-0 before Wake responded with two runs in the fifth behind Will Craig plating a run on a fielder's choice. The Terps ultimately piled on four runs in the sixth and three runs in the seventh to put a halt to Wake's conference winning streak.
With the series win, Wake got to 10-5 on the season in the conference with only half a season remaining. With an overall record of 22-12, the Deacs have positioned themselves well to make a run at postseason play, but difficult conference series down the stretch make wins hard to come by. The Deacs will head to Chapel Hill next weekend to face North Carolina, will be at home in two weeks against top five Florida State, and still have two series remaining against N.C. State and Virginia.
Despite this difficult schedule, Wake is currently well-positioned and sits in second in the Atlantic Division of the ACC behind only Florida State. With an RPI of 53, projected to only improve as the strength-of-schedule gets more difficult, the Deacs have a legitimate shot to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. The 2014 ACC Tournament, hosted in Greensboro, will feature the top ten teams in the conference (out of fourteen in the ACC - Syracuse does not have baseball). The top six teams automatically advance to pool play, while the seventh through tenth ranked teams will each play a one-game play-in to advance to pool play starting on Wednesday.
The 2014 version of the Diamond Deacs has featured a more solid and consistent pitching staff, and one which heavily features Fischer and McLeod. Closer Fossas has a 4-1 overall record to go along with eight saves and boasts an impressive 2.51 ERA while Fischer and McLeod have a 2.78 and 1.84 ERA respectively. Third starter Connor Kaden has a 2-3 record with a 4.50 ERA along with 37 strikeouts.
On the offensive side, Wake is averaging just under five runs a game behind the hot-hitting from Grant Shambley, Conway, and Craig. Conway and Craig have combined for 10 home runs and 53 RBI's, while both hitting above .300. Despite a lower batting average, Charlie Morgan has driven in 28 RBIs, leading the team, along with seven doubles. Wake's offense will need to continue hitting with runners in scoring position during later-season matchups with UNC, FSU, and UVA.
Wake returns to action for one mid-week game on Tuesday against UNC-Greensboro. The Deacs need to continue to take care of business during these mid-week games as they bear heavily on NCAA selection at the end of the season. The Spartans are 14-16 overall with an RPI of 224. This game will be at Wake Forest Baseball Park.