Fresh off a much-needed home series win over Boston College, the 16th-ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons will step outside of ACC play for two midweek games against High Point and Radford. Wake currently sits at 32-14 (15-9 ACC), has clinched a spot in the ACC Tournament in Louisville, and has locked up at least a .500 record in conference play for the first time since 2014. Wake has not had a winning conference record since the 2006 season when the team finished 33-22 (16-13 ACC).
The Deacs play High Point on Tuesday at 1 P.M. in Winston-Salem in a game already moved up due to expected weather in the area. Based on the forecast, it is uncertain if the game will be played, but there is potential for a gap in the radar for three to four hours early afternoon which could give the teams a shot.
High Point enters Tuesday with a 25-18 (12-9 Big South) record and swept Charleston Southern at home last weekend by a combined 13-4 margin. The Panthers are 135th in the RPI and 10-10 on the road this year. The Deacs will be just the second top 50 RPI team High Point has played this year, falling 18-8 against Wake in High Point back on March 14.
Meanwhile, the Deacs are 17-5 at home and have only dropped one midweek contest at home so far this year, a 6-1 setback to Charlotte two weeks back. Wake has been largely successful against non-conference teams and especially those outside the top 100 in the RPI. Overall Wake is 13-2 against teams worse than 100th and is 6-1 in Tuesday contests.
Junior Drew Loepprich (2-2, 5.50 ERA) will get the ball to start things for Wake and squares off against righty Jordan Sergent (1-1, 4.05 ERA) for the Panthers.
This is a game that the Deacs need to win to maintain pace to host a regional in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. While the committee does not generally pay as much attention to midweek performances, based largely in part to the weekend starters getting a break from the mound, it is important for Wake to keep adding to the win column and avoid what would be viewed as “bad” losses. Based on the first outing against High Point, the Deacs should be able to get some runs on the board and take care of business.
Following Tuesday’s game, Wake will take to the road to play the Radford Highlanders in Virginia. Radford, also of the Big South Conference, enters the Wednesday contest with a 20-25 (8-10 Big South) record. Radford took two of three games over the weekend against UNC Asheville on the road and squares off tonight against East Tennessee State. They are 9-8 at home so far this season while Wake is 12-8 on the road.
Radford is slightly worse than High Point, currently ranked 172nd in the RPI. The Highlanders are the worst team remaining on Wake’s schedule (with nine games left) and, like High Point, has yet to beat a top 50 RPI team with an 0-4 record in those games. Radford is 0-6 this year against ACC teams and was swept by UNC in a three game series at the beginning of the year in addition to dropping two games to Virginia Tech and one game to Wake. Wake and Radford played way back at the beginning of March in Winston-Salem at the Wake Forest Invitational - a game the Deacs won 18-7.
As mentioned above, this is the type of game that Wake needs to lock down and get a win to avoid dropping a contest to a “lower-tier” OOC opponent. While road games are always a little bit more difficult, there is no reason to believe Wake is not the better team overall and can get the job done - especially considering that Wake has beaten these two teams in the first two games by a combined 36-15 margin.
The starters for tomorrow night’s contest, beginning at 6 P.M., have not yet been announced. I would imagine Wake will give freshman Colin Peluse the ball against the Highlanders. Peluse has made seven starts on the season and is 1-1 with a 5.48 ERA. He also has made four appearances in relief, including this past weekend against Boston College, and is 1-0 in those outings allowing no runs in three total innings. Peluse has a solid 21/8 strikeout to walk ratio and is likely in the running for a weekend starter position as he continues to mature as a Demon Deacon.
Bottomline for today and tomorrow is to get the wins by any means necessary and then turn attention to a critical road series against top 30 Florida State this weekend down in Tallahassee. Wake is very well positioned as things currently stand to host an NCAA regional and don’t need any additional blemishes on their resume.
Wake is a consensus top 25 team and has been for about a month now. Let’s keep the momentum going and move to 34-14 on the year. As always, go Deacs!