The Wake Forest baseball team will take the field tomorrow at 4 p.m. to challenge the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Over the past several days we have taken a look at Minnesota's lineup, but today we take a look at Wake's own lineup. Baseball isn't as popular as football or basketball, so we thought it would be an informative read to break down Wake's own lineup, and discuss where it should be difficult for Minnesota to force outs.
Manager Tom Walter still has not committed to a pitcher for the first game against Minnesota, nor given any sort of indication about how he will handle the pitching staff for the regional weekend as a whole. The presumption is that Parker Dunshee will get the start on Friday, as he consistently has all year in conference play, but with only two losses this weekend the season is over so the order becomes even more important, as discussed yesterday by Rob.
We will get to the pitching shortly, but first let's take a look at the bats and potential lineups at the plate for the Diamond Deacs:
|Wake Forest Lineup||AVG||OBP||SLG||HR||SB|
As most BSD readers know, the Deacs are led on offense by all-everything junior Will Craig. Craig was named First Team All-ACC, will likely be named First-Team All American, and won the ACC Player of the Year Award a year ago. Craig leads in the nation in OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage) as well as slugging percentage. He ranks in the top 5 in the nation in on base percentage and is top 20 in the nation in batting average for qualified bats. He will likely bat fourth in the lineup and although he is not a threat to steal any bases at his size, presents a very serious threat to opposing pitchers and is likely the best offensive player in the region - if not one of the top offensive players in the entire nation.
While pitchers have attempted to pitch around Craig at times (although I believe still not at the clip that his numbers and offensive power would practically dictate - oh well that's a win for the Deacs), he is surrounded in the lineup by more than competent offensive power. Nate Mondou was also named First-Team All-ACC and despite a bit of a slow start, has picked up his pace over the second half of the season. Both Stuart Fairchild and Gavin Sheets, the two guys most likely to sandwich Craig in the lineup, have plenty of power and Sheets particularly has made pitchers pay when they've opted to go around Craig and take their cracks at someone else.
Despite a team batting average which is slightly deflated in comparison to some of the other teams in the NCAAs, due largely in part to the dominance of the ACC and caliber of pitchers the Deacs faced on a weekly basis for the past two months, this is a potent offense with the potential to put up a lot of runs in a hurry. Similar to what teams will need to do against Minnesota, opposing pitchers will need to pick their spots against the top five guys and feast on consistently getting outs when the bottom of the order is up.
That's certainly no sleight against the Wake hitters in the six through nine spots, who all have shown plenty of power in spurts this year. Aiello had a solid ACC Tournament and came on strong at the end of the season after having an extended slump in the middle of his freshman year. Kevin Conway will similarly be expected to get some timely hits and will likely have several opportunities to put runs on the board after pitchers have run the gauntlet of Mondou-Fairchild-Craig-Sheets in the middle of the roster.
Bottom line is that the Wake offense is going to put runs on the board, the major question is what will the pitching staff be able to do with the run support it is given? And with that let's take a look at the rotation and what Wake fans are likely to see from them this weekend.
The table below provides the four guys who are in the running to possibly make starts this weekend in the regional with their season stats:
|Pitcher||IP||Earned Runs||Strikeouts||Walks||Hits Allowed||WHIP||K/9||BB/9||ERA|
Dunshee is the best pitcher on the Wake roster and beyond the one start he will make, can likely come in to provide a few innings of relief if need be. He made the start against Duke in the ACC Tournament play-in game and came in against Clemson on Saturday for three innings of relief.
McCarren is a guy who didn't make a lot of starts for the Deacs, but was a critical long reliever getting Wake to the late innings of the game where guys like Will Craig, Donnie Sellers, and Garrett Kelly could finish up the game. Loepprich threw six innings of great baseball against Clemson and left with the lead before the bullpen ended up taking the loss in the final few innings and is, in my opinion, the second best starter Wake has on the team. Johnstone is probably fourth in the pecking order as far as starts go, but is certainly a candidate for relief appearances.
Once Wake gets past the four guys who have made starts, things really start getting a little hairy about where the Deacs can turn to get some outs. The three candidates who are expected to make relief appearances are the aforementioned Craig, Sellers, and Kelly. Craig provided eight saves for the Deacs, boasted a stout 2.42 ERA in 25+ innings on the season, and is the best arm out of the pen (is there anything this guy can't do?)
Sellers has had some rocky appearances this season, including an absolute beating when he came on in relief against Clemson, but has pieced together a few good relief spots and will need to be consistent this weekend for Wake to succeed. Sellers also has the best facial hair on the team at the moment - something likely to be touched on by the ESPN3 broadcast throughout the weekend. Kelly threw two innings against Virginia on Friday at the ACC Tournament, really looking solid, and made 27 appearances during the season with a 4.64 overall ERA.
One other guy who may see some action is Chris Farish, but Farish has struggled with his accuracy a lot this season walking 30 batters in just 28 innings. If Walter needs to bring someone in for a critical strikeout look for Farish or Kelly to be the go-to guys as they struck out 35 and 40 guys respectively and both averaged greater than a strikeout per inning.
Once you get past these four guys the outlook gets somewhat bleak with all other bullpen options sitting at an ERA of 7.00 or greater with the lone exception, David Peljovich, having made only three appearances all year. If the Deacs end up playing four or five games this weekend and need to rely on guys beyond the top eight mentioned above, things could get really interesting (and probably not in a good way) down the stretch.
The Wake bullpen is going to be a critical part of whether Wake can piece together some wins down the stretch, and quite frankly is the weakest spot on this roster by far.
This was another lengthy article, but again we wanted to get as much information as possible out there about the Wake Forest baseball team. This is the first time the Deacs have been in the NCAAs since 2007 and everyone here at Blogger So Dear is excited for the first pitch against Minnesota.
Tomorrow we will have predictions up and maybe a couple of other articles or fan shots looking at other interesting aspects of the College Station Region. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments let us know and as always, go Deacs!