The 20th ranked Wake Forest (23-10, 9-6 ACC) baseball team is back from a weekend road trip to Louisville to square off against two teams from the Carolinas before jumping back into ACC action at the end of the week. Wake will first play Coastal Carolina, the defending national champions, in Winston-Salem on Tuesday afternoon and then will head out to Elon to face the Phoenix in a rescheduled game that was rained out last week. Both games begin at 6 p.m.
Over the weekend, the Deacs lost their first conference series of the year on the road against top five Louisville. However, the Deacs took the first game of the series behind the arm of Parker Dunshee and a timely home run from Gavin Sheets, to break the Cardinals’ 37 regular season home winning streak. The series was competitive throughout and Wake availed themselves quite while against one of the most talented teams in the country.
This will be the second matchup of the season between Wake and Coastal, the first of which came in Conway back on March 8. In that contest the Deacs knocked off the Chanticleers in a high-scoring 13-8 affair. Coastal has struggled at times this year but enters Tuesday’s game with a 20-11-1 record, fresh off a 1-1-1 weekend against Louisiana-Lafayette. Coastal averages 6.8 runs a game while allowing 4.9 and is currently ranked 26th in the nation in this week’s polls.
Wake will throw Drew Loepprich (2-2, 3.72 ERA) against lefty freshman Anthony Veneziano (2-1, 5.94 ERA) from Coastal. Loepprich got the midweek start last week against Elon, going five innings striking out seven while allowing only four hits and one run on a solo shot.
Coastal is the toughest non-conference game remaining on Wake’s slate and is the greatest threat to the Deac’s undefeated run during midweek games. Manager Tom Walter will be relying on an experienced Loepprich against a team with a considerable amount of talent to remove any additional stress on the bullpen with games on back-to-back days before a home series with Notre Dame begins Friday.
We took a look at Elon last week, as the Deacs were originally scheduled to play a home-and-home on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, but the second game was unfortunately postponed due to weather. Wake won the first game, in Winston, by a 14-1 margin - scoring 14 unanswered runs after the Phoenix struck first.
After the Tuesday meeting, Elon dropped two of three games against William & Mary in CAA play. With the series loss, the Phoenix fell to 6-3 in conference play but currently sits just a game out of first, in a tie with Northeastern for second overall.
Wake will send out freshman Colin Peluse (2-0, 6.14 ERA) against Elon. Peluse was scheduled to start last week’s game against the Phoenix and has not pitched in a game since March 28 against App State. Peluse went a career long five innings against the Mountaineers, striking out four on 56 pitches.
Perhaps the biggest storyline of the year so far for the Diamond Deacs is the potency of the offense. Five players have already hit seven home runs, which is the most players to reach that mark since the 2002 season. Johnny Aiello leads the team with eleven homers while Sheets has ten, Bruce Steel eight, and Stuart Fairchild and Keegan Maronpot seven a piece.
With the projected temperature at game time tonight at 78 degrees, it’s a great time to get out and watch the Deacs take on the defending national champions. This is the best baseball team Wake has put out in a while and it’s always exciting to have a nationally ranked team in Winston. The team can use all the support it can get and the additions to the ballpark have made it a desirable location to spend a couple hours. So if you have the chance, come on out and pull on the Deacs.