The Wake Forest Demon Deacons and Florida Gators are set to square off this weekend in Gainesville with a trip to Omaha and the College World Series on the line. Both teams hosted and won their own regional last weekend, with Wake needing just three games to clinch, and Florida playing four, dropping one to Bethune-Cookman before bouncing back to beat them in a winner-take-all rematch.
While the Demon Deacons found their way to the Super Regionals on the backs of a potent offense ranking in the top five of most meaningful offensive statistics, the Gators relied heavily on their pitching to advance to this weekend.
Let’s first take a look at the three weekend starters for the two teams, who we will expect to each see start a game (if the rubber match on Monday is required).
The table below puts the pitchers in the normal order that they pitch on the weekend:
Since most Wake fans are very familiar with what Dunshee, Sellers, and Johnstone bring to the plate, this article mainly focuses on what the Gators bring to the table. Wake’s stats are provided above for context to see how the two staffs compare to one another.
Florida’s top pitching threat is junior right hander Alex Faedo. He was the Friday starter for the Gators over the course of the year and pieced together a fantastic season, as seen by his low ERA and WHIP totals, as well as an impressive 123 strikeouts over 103.1 innings.
Faedo is primarily a two-pitch guy, with a fastball that sits in the low 90’s with an ability to get up to 94 or 95, and an impressive slider in the low-to-mid 80’s that can leave hitters looking silly as it breaks off the plate.
At times throughout the year he worked in a changeup but does not throw it as much as the fastball or slider. He is almost certain to go in the first round of next week’s MLB Draft and could potentially be a top 10 pick. Wake is going to have their hands full Saturday afternoon with Faedo.
The number two guy for the Gators, likely to go on Sunday, is right-handed sophomore Brady Singer. Singer was drafted 56th overall by Toronto out of high school, but opted to go to Florida instead.
He was also one of the top prospects in last year’s Cape Cod League. Like Faedo, Singer relies mainly on a fastball and a slider. The fastball runs in the mid-90’s and has a bit of a late tail based on some of his outings this season, while his slider - perhaps not quite as good as Faedo’s - elicits its fair share of strikeouts. Singer’s ability to throw first-pitch strikes and attack hitters throughout the at-bat was indicated by his impressive 29 walks in 106 total innings.
As with Faedo, Singer is going to be a very difficult task for the Deacs. The good news is that he likes to keep the ball in the zone and the middle of Wake’s order has punished offerings that get a little too greedy. Faedo and Singer against the Demon Deacon offense will be one of the most exciting matchups across the entire country this weekend in Super Regionals.
While the top two guys in the Florida rotation have generally received the bulk of the attention, the third starter Jackson Kowar is undefeated with a ridiculous 12-0 record on the season. Kowar, a sophomore righty from Charlotte, has a fastball in the low-to-mid 90’s but hit 96 to 98 at times over the last year. In addition to the fastball, Kowar relies on a solid changeup and a splitter that has shown an ability to keep batters guessing in the box. While Kowar strikes out fewer people than both Faedo and Singer, he remains difficult to hit and still has a healthy 3.72 ERA. As far as third-day starters go, it’s difficult to imagine Kowar that is not one of the top guys in the nation.
All-in-all, the Florida starters are going to be a challenge even for a high-powered offense like Wake. For the Deacs to take this series they are going to need to be patient at the plate and not go chasing too many balls out of the zone. All three pitchers rely on a solid fastball and with the bat speed Wake has, especially from guys like Gavin Sheets or Johnny Aiello, it’s not too difficult to imagine a scenario where Wake is able to take a few balls out of the park if they’re able to get the timing right.
The rotation for Florida seems pretty clear cut and I expect to see Dunshee against Faedo in an absolute battle on Saturday afternoon. While Singer will almost certainly get the nod Sunday, it will be interesting to see if manager Tom Walter throws Johnstone or Sellers in game two.
Sellers has been the Saturday starter all year, but it’s likely that Johnstone is considered the “number two” guy and Walter has wanted him available in the rubber match of conference series. However, with there being no guarantee that there is a game three, I personally believe Singer will match up with Johnstone leaving a potential game three between Kowar and Sellers.
If you have any questions or comments let us know below. We will continue to have coverage of the Gainesville Super Regional as the week progresses. Wake sits just two wins away from Omaha and it’s an exciting time to be a Wake baseball fan. As always, go Deacs!