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Baseball Preview: Elon Phoenix

The Diamond Deacs look to continue their hot streak with two midweek games against in-state rival Elon

NCAA Basketball: Coastal Carolina at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a four game road trip in which Wake Forest went 3-1, including a fourth consecutive series win to begin conference play, the nationally ranked Diamond Deacs turn their focus to two midweek games against the Elon Phoenix. The first game is tonight in Winston-Salem and the two teams will travel to Elon tomorrow night for a rematch. First pitch for both games is scheduled for 6 P.M. Weather is not expected to be a problem for tonight’s game.

Elon will attempt to be the first team to beat the Deacs in a midweek game, as Wake has not yet lost on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday this season. The Phoenix enter the game 15-13 (5-1 CAA) having won six in a row after falling in their conference opener to Northeastern before bouncing back to claim the series.

While their weekend pitching has been stingy at times, especially against James Madison this past weekend where they allowed a total of three runs in three games, Elon’s midweek pitching has been shaky at best - giving up 37 runs in their last four non-weekend games (1-3 in those four games).

Elon is a contender for the CAA title this year and is currently tied for the conference lead with Charleston, however Warren Nolan’s game predictor projects Wake as a 67% favorite today with a final score of 8-3.

Tuesday’s game will mark only the fourth contest for Elon against a top 50 RPI team and the first since the Phoenix were swept by top five Clemson back in February by a combined score of 17-5, including two shutouts.

Elon, ranked 126th in the RPI, will be the 10th game for the Deacs against an opponent ranked between 101 and 200. The Deacs are 7-2 in the previous nine games.

Pitching

While Wake has not released the starters for the two Elon games, it is likely that freshman Colin Peluse (2-0, 6.14 ERA) will get one of the starts, as he has received the ball in each of the last four non-conference games. In his last outing, which was his longest as a Demon Deacon, Peluse went 5.0 innings, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out four without walking a batter on 56 pitches.

The other start will likely go to John McCarren (2-2, 4.18 ERA) , Drew Loepprich (1-2, 4.12 ERA), or Morgan McSweeney (1-1, 4.97 ERA). These three pitchers are the only guys who have started a game this year other than Peluse and the weekend starters.

To the extent that manager Tom Walter decides to use McCarren or Loepprich to start a game, it would make sense to have that starter throw tonight so that they get an extra day of rest prior to any appearances that they would have in a critical road series against top five Louisville this weekend. This strategy would clearly depend upon how these guys handle off days and days where they have a scheduled throwing/bullpen session.

If pressed to pick who would get the second outside of Peluse I’d go with Loepprich. He started 16 games last year for the Deacs, and was a weekend starter for much of the ACC season. Regardless of who gets the start, and we will update this article as soon as the game notes are released, expect Wake to continue to punish opposing pitching.

Editor’s Note: In an interview with Les Johns after the Miami series, Walter offered that the Deacs would throw Loepprich and Peluse this week. Solid work, as always, by Les covering the Diamond Deacs.

Wake is averaging 8.6 runs a games so far this year, and despite a slow start against Miami, the Deacons got hot on Sunday in a dominant 9-0 victory hitting four home runs - one each from Bruce Steel, Logan Harvey, Keegan Maronpot, and Gavin Sheets (and three of these four were just absolutely crushed).

Maronpot, fresh off his seventh HR of the year this past weekend, will get two shots against Elon to replicate what was arguably the best performance of his career: a four hit, two homer game against the Phoenix as a freshman back in 2015.

The Deacs have mainly trotted out the same lineup for the bulk of the season, with eight guys on offense having started in at least 26 of the team’s 29 games - including four guys (Pryor, Fairchild, Sheets, and Aiello) who have started every single game. If any changes are made to the lineup, it would be fun to see guys like Zach Seal or Patrick Frick get a spot start.

Projected Lineup

Without any major or unexpected changes to the lineup, it is likely Wake will have the following batting order which it ran in all three games this weekend:

  1. Jonathan Pryor
  2. Jake Mueller
  3. Stuart Fairchild
  4. Gavin Sheets
  5. Ben Breazeale
  6. Johnny Aiello
  7. Bruce Steel
  8. Keegan Maronpot
  9. Logan Harvey

Random Notes:

As noted by the Wake Forest Baseball Twitter account, the Diamond Deacs are a consensus nationally ranked team for the first time in ten years. The best ranking of the group is 17th by Baseball America

Congratulations to Connor Johnstone, who was named co-pitcher of the week in the ACC following a complete game, three hit shutout on Sunday at Miami to help the Deacs clinch a series win.

After these two midweek games, Wake will travel to Louisville for a three game series. Louisville is ranked second in the nation at 24-3 (10-2 ACC). Wake currently sits in fourth place in the ACC at 8-4, a game behind UNC at 9-3, and two games behind Clemson and Louisville at 10-2.

Wake is second in the nation in home runs with 52, trailing only Virginia Tech who has hit 56. The Deacs are fourth in the nation in runs scored with 248, trailing only Tennessee Tech, Jackson State, and New Mexico.