The 17th ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons (30-13, 13-8 ACC) play their first game in over a week when they return to conference play in Winston-Salem this weekend against the unranked Boston College Eagles (18-24, 7-17 ACC).
In the last outing, the Diamond Deacs knocked off in-state rival Davidson 12-6 in a game that saw all three weekend starters hit the mound with a bye last weekend due to exams and a lull in ACC play.
Boston College got off to a horrible 1-14 start in conference play, although a lot of this was due to their front-loaded schedule which featured Florida State, Louisville, Clemson, and North Carolina in four of the first five series of the conference season. They have bounced back nicely over the past few weeks with a series win over Duke in Durham, a sweep of N.C. State, and a win over Miami in last Sunday’s series finale to avoid being swept at home.
The Deacs have three conference series remaining, including Boston College this weekend, a road contest next weekend against Florida State, and the season finale at home against Pittsburgh. Wake is currently in fourth in the ACC standings, and third in the Atlantic Division. With a sweep this weekend, Tom Walter’s squad would tie Clemson for second in the Atlantic at 16-8 with six games remaining for both teams. Clemson hosts Nevada in an out-of-conference matchup this weekend.
BC took last year’s season series in Boston two games to one and advanced to the Super Regionals of the NCAA Tournament where they were one game away from the College World Series (fell to Miami).
Wake Starters Listed First
Friday (6:00) – Parker Dunshee (7-1, 3.93) vs. RHP Jacob Stevens (4-5, 4.52)
Saturday (4:00) - Donnie Sellers (3-3, 4.37) vs. LHP Dan Metzdorf (2-5, 4.65)
Sunday (1:00) - Connor Johnstone (6-0, 3.07) vs. RHP Brian Rapp (2-2, 3.83)
While Wake is favored in this series, Boston College has surged lately winning six of their last eight games. This includes a midweek 6-1 win over in-state opponent UMass Lowell. Boston College is ranked 97th in the RPI and is 4-12 against the RPI top 50 this season so far.
Friday’s starter for the Eagles, sophomore Jacob Stevens, has bounced back from a rocky start to the season at times to piece together three consecutive quality starts against Duke, N.C. State, and Miami. In what was likely his best performance of the year, Stevens went 7.0 innings, allowing just one run on one hit on April 14 against the Blue Devils. The last time out, against Miami, he went 6.1 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits while striking out six. Although he has struck out 54 guys in total this year, he has also allowed a total of 35 walks which is something for Wake’s potent offense to keep an eye out for early on in the game to get his pitch count up.
On offense, the most productive player has been catcher Gian Martellini batting predominantly out of the cleanup spot. He is hitting .289 and leads the team in home runs (four), RBIs (30), doubles (11), and triples (two). As a team, the Eagles do not possess a lot of power as Martellini’s four home runs provide more than half of the total homers hit as a team (seven). Martellini is the only player to have homered in conference play so far, having hit three at this point of the season.
In comparison, the Diamond Deacs are one of the most powerful teams in the nation on offense – ranking second in the country with 74 home runs total so far this year. Wake has five different players with more home runs than Boston College has as a team, including Johnny Aiello and Gavin Sheets (15) who rank 9th in the country. Stuart Fairchild is third on the team with 11 home runs, while Bruce Steel (nine) and Keegan Maronpot (eight) round out the top five power hitters for the Diamond Deacs.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances or slight tweaks based on what BC brings to the table pitching-wise, it is likely Wake will trot out the same lineup that they have for the bulk of the season, which has been highly successful up to this point:
1. Jonathan Pryor (LF)
2. Jake Mueller (2B)
3. Stuart Fairchild (CF)
4. Gavin Sheets (1B)
5. Ben Breazeale (C/DH)
6. Johnny Aiello (3B)
7. Bruce Steel (SS)
8. Keegan Maronpot (RF)
9. Logan Harvey (C/DH)
Breazeale normally catches for Dunshee so at least for Friday’s game, it is likely that Ben will be behind the plate. One lineup change that is also possible is Patrick Frick getting the start over Bruce Steel. Frick started each of the three games against Clemson two weekends ago.
With five strikeouts over three innings against Davidson last week, Dunshee now has 295 strikeouts in his Wake Forest career. He is currently second on the all-time Wake Forest career strikeout list and is only 17 strikeouts away from tying John Hendricks’ record of 312. Dunshee is averaging around 1.15 strikeouts per inning and will likely break the all-time record with two or three more starts.
The Deacs are 8-3 in Friday games so far this season and are 23-6 against unranked opponents. There have been 20 games where Wake has not committed an error and Wake is an impressive 19-1 in those contests.
This weekend has potential to be a big one for the Diamond Deacs. As mentioned earlier, Clemson is off from ACC play and currently sits at 16-8 with the Deacs at 13-8. With a sweep the teams are tied (Clemson holds the tiebreaker courtesy of the series win two weeks ago).
If the season ended today Wake Forest would be the 4 seed in the ACC Tournament. Grabbing at least the 3 seed would be ideal because it avoids the 5 seed in pool play, and also avoids the 1 seed in the semi-finals should the favorites advance.
Wake currently holds a half game lead over Virginia for the fourth spot, but the Deacs have a two game lead in the loss column. The Cavaliers are 14-10 in ACC play with series left against Miami and at Georgia Tech. Three other teams to keep an eye on are Miami at 12-11 (1.5 games back of Wake, and the Deacs hold the tiebreak), Florida State at 11-12 (3 games back of Wake, with the teams set to play in Tallahassee next weekend), and N.C. State at 11-13 (3.5 games back of Wake, and the Deacs hold the tiebreak).
The Deacs are also in the chase to host one of the sixteen regionals in the NCAA Tournament. The most recent projections from this week have Wake currently hosting and a home series win over a bottom three team in the ACC is a must-have for the Deacs to maintain their position.
It is a slow week overall for ACC baseball as it is finals time at many schools. Louisville plays at Notre Dame and Pittsburgh plays at Georgia Tech while Clemson, FSU, Miami, and N.C. State all host non-conference opponents for a weekend series.
If you are in Winston you should get over to the Couch to support the Diamond Deacs. This team is going places and this is a critical conference series as the season comes down the homestretch. As always, go Deacs.