After a red hot start to the year that led to a 10-3 record, the Diamond Deacs have stumbled a bit coming out of the block in ACC play. Currently Wake Forest sits at 14-9 (2-4 in the ACC), taking a game a piece out of the first two ACC series against Clemson and Virginia. Clemson and Virginia are both top 25 teams, and will in all likelihood be regional teams in the college baseball postseason.
The Deacs lost the first two games in Charlottesville last weekend before taking a 9-8 victory in the series finale on Sunday. Wake led 8-1, but allowed the Cavaliers to tie it up at 8 before a timely game-winning hit by Keegan Maronpot in the 9th to grab the victory.
A mid-week come back win over the Charlotte 49ers on Tuesday gives the Deacs a two-game winning streak headed into a series vs. Duke in Winston-Salem this weekend.
Perhaps more importantly than the win on Tuesday, it was a one-game out of conference week, giving superstar Will Craig more time to rest up from an oblique injury that has hampered his playing time over the past two weeks. Craig is still listed as day-to-day, and hopefully he can play in at least 2 of the games this weekend.
The Blue Devils enter the game with a 10-11 record (1-5 in the ACC), and have lost four games in row (three to UNC last weekend, and a mid-week game to ECU on Tuesday). This is a critical series for Wake Forest to get 2-3 wins at home to get at, or above .500 in the ACC. After this weekend the Deacs begin an eight game road trip that includes: Elon, Notre Dame, Davidson, and top 25 foe N.C. State.
Wake Forest finally got some good offensive support in its past two games, particularly from Maronpot, who knocked in four runs in the Charlotte win.
The Deacs are led by junior sensation Will Craig, who is batting .462 on the year with 7 home runs and 26 runs batted. He needs help from the lineup around him, as Nate Mondou and Stuart Fairchild have both struggled a bit at the plate compared to last season. It bears noting that they both have drawn a lot of walks, and helped Wake to rank second in the ACC, and 8th nationally in walks drawn on the season.
Craig is tied for 16th in the NCAA in home runs (7), and tied for 8th nationally in batting average (.462)
Looking at pitching, the Deacs have settled in to using Parker Dunshee on Friday, Connor Johnstone on Saturday, and Drew Loepprich on Sunday.
The expected starters for the weekend:
Friday: (Wake) Parker Dunshee (3-2, 3.94 ERA) vs. (Duke) Bailey Clark (2-2, 3.41 ERA)
Saturday: (Wake) Connor Johnstone (1-2, 7.06 ERA) vs. (Duke) Kellen Urbon (3-1, 1.26 ERA)
Sunday: (Wake) Drew Loepprich (2-0, 4.20 ERA) vs. (Duke) Brian McAfee (2-2, 3.97 ERA)
From the look of it, tonight and Sunday need to be wins, as Urbon has pitched very well for the Blue Devils this season, while Johnstone has struggled at times for Wake, despite getting the second most amount of run support per game on the team.
Dunshee is getting just 4.3 runs per game of support in his outings, which makes sense given that he pitches on Friday, the standard day for most teams to use their ace. His 33 strikeouts to 6 walks is by far the best on the team, with Loepprich in second at 16 strikeouts to 9 walks.
For those who are statistically inclined and like the KenPom stuff that we do, there is a similar website that Warren Nolan runs. While it is not as "groundbreaking" as KenPom, it is where I do most of analytical research to see how Wake Forest compares to the other ACC and NCAA teams.
Wake Forest is currently ranked 63rd in the "RPI", and projected to finish the season at 32-24 (13-17). That would put the Deacs pretty squarely on the bubble in my "expert" analysis. Duke currently sits at 126, and is projected to finish 22-33 (6-24). This is a big weekend, and honestly anything less than two wins for the Diamond Deacs would be a pretty big disappointment.
The game tonight is at 6PM at David F. Couch Ballpark. Saturday's first pitch will be at 4PM, while Easter Sunday will begin at 1PM. If you are in the Winston-Salem area I urge you to get out there and support the Deacs. It's a great way to spend a few hours outside in an extremely family-friendly environment!