With the start of Wake Forest’s 2019 baseball season less than a month away, it is a great time to take a macro look at who this year’s version of the Diamond Deacs will face in their quest for a third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four years.
Overall, Wake has a very manageable non-conference schedule, which should provide the Deacs with a hot start out of the gate before ACC play begins in the second week of March.
Wake enters the season ranked 20th by D1Baseball and is receiving votes in the Collegiate Baseball poll (although this publication ranks 40 teams overall). Today, we take a look at the non-conference portion of the schedule with an article up tomorrow about Wake’s opponents in ACC play. Here is Wake’s entire 2019 schedule:
Now let’s jump in and see what interesting matchups Wake has on the 2019 calendar.
Key Non-Conference Matchups:
Illinois (February 16): Wake’s first test of the 2019 season is the second overall game of the year, which is against Illinois in Winston-Salem. Illinois found itself on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble last year despite a 33-20 overall record, good enough for a top five finish in the Big 10. The Illini look to advance to their first NCAA appearance since 2015 when they rattled off a remarkable 50 wins and both hosted and won a subregional before losing to Vanderbilt in the Super Regionals. This game marks the second in a long string of road games for the Illini who do not have a home opener until mid-March. Wake fans should get a good look at what the 2019 season may bring with a tasty home matchup between two teams expected to contend for postseason play.
Coastal Carolina (March 5 & 6): Coastal Carolina enters the season ranked 21st according to D1Baseball and 12th according to Collegiate Baseball. The Diamond Deacs will take to Conway to square off against the Chanticleers for a two-game midweek set in what should be the first major challenge of the season for Wake Forest. Coastal finished the 2018 season with a 43-19 overall record and hosted an NCAA subregional but were eliminated by second-seeded Connecticut who ultimately fell to the Washington Huskies in the subregional title game. Wake played Coastal twice last year, both decisive victories for the Chanticleers by a combined 28-5 score.
Other Games to Keep an Eye on:
Sacred Heart (February 15): Wake opens the season against Sacred Heart who was one of the worst teams in Division 1 baseball in 2018. The Deacs need to get a win under their belt in the opener to get the momentum going before they play the Illini a day later.
UNCG (February 26, March 26): UNCG is one of a handful of top 100 teams Wake plays in the non-conference part of the season. Each team will host a game this year. The first game in February will provide a solid matchup between the Illinois and Coastal Carolina tilts. The Spartans finished last season ranked 67th in the RPI and won the Southern Conference regular season with an 18-3 record, but were upset in their conference tournament and did not make the NCAA tournament. Greensboro enters this season receiving votes in the Collegiate Baseball poll. Wake and UNCG split their 2018 matchups, each winning one game.
Furman (March 1-3): Although Furman is not projected to be very good in 2019, this is an interesting series as the Deacs and Paladins will play three games in three days in three different locations. This is a great opportunity for Wake fans in the Carolinas to catch the Diamond Deacs with the opener in Winston, game two in Charlotte, and the series finale in Greenville (SC). Despite the odd travel schedule, I expect Wake to take this series in convincing fashion and the Deacs should be looking for a sweep.
Charlotte (March 19, April 23): Wake continues their series with Charlotte in 2019 with each team hosting a game. Last year the 49ers beat Wake 13-1 in Winston-Salem before the return trip was cancelled due to weather. Charlotte is another top 100 team from a year ago and these will be good midweek challenges for Wake during conference play.
Which non-conference games are you most looking forward to this year? Let’s get out to the Couch early this season and support the ranked Deacs as they look to get off to a hot start. Check back in tomorrow to see a breakdown of Wake’s ACC schedule and as always, go Deacs!