Yesterday we took a look at Wake Forest baseball’s non-conference schedule so today we turn to examine who the Diamond Deacs will square off against in ACC play.
With the seasonal rotation, Wake does not face North Carolina, Virginia, or Georgia Tech. Overall, this is favorable for the Deacs as UNC enters the season ranked in the top 10 by both D1 Baseball and Collegiate Baseball and, despite a down year in 2018, UVA and Georgia Tech are traditionally ACC powerhouses. On the flip side, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech were two of the worst teams in the ACC last season and neither have great prospects for the 2019 year.
Notre Dame (March 8-10): The Irish come to Winston the second week in March as Wake kicks off ACC play against a team who has made only one NCAA tournament appearance in the last decade. The Irish are coming off a 24-30 (12-18 ACC) season and are not expected to contend for the Atlantic Division title. However, the Irish did take two of three from the Deacs in South Bend last year. Wake needs to get off to a good start in conference play and the Irish provide a great opportunity to win the opening series.
Boston College (March 15-17): Wake again hosts a bottom-tier ACC team in conference play’s second weekend against Boston College. The Eagles boasted a pitiful 17-32 (7-22 ACC) overall record in 2018 and were unable to capitalize on any momentum sustained from the 2016 campaign which saw them one game away from the College World Series. This matchup, along with the Irish, is as an ideal a start to ACC play as Wake could hope for. Wake swept the 2018 matchup in Chestnut Hill, allowing only one run all weekend.
@ Duke (March 22-24): The Deac’s first road series in the ACC is a short trip down I-40 to Durham to face off against Duke. The Blue Devils enter the season unranked by D1Baseball, but ranked 20th by Collegiate Baseball and are fresh off of an impressive 45-20 (18-11 ACC) season. Duke fell just one game short of making it to the College World Series, falling to Texas Tech in Lubbock. Duke will present a big challenge for the first conference road series and will be a fantastic litmus test for where both teams stand in the conference and national picture as March winds down. Wake did not play Duke last season.
@ Louisville (March 29-31): Louisville is coming off a 45-19 (18-12 ACC) record in 2018, when they advanced to the NCAA subregional as a two seed in Texas Tech’s bracket. The Red Raiders eliminated both Louisville and Duke en route to the College World Series. I expect Louisville to be even better this year than they were last and the preseason top 10 (Collegiate Baseball) Cardinals will provide a formidable road test for the Deacs. If Wake is competing for an NCAA Tournament berth, they will need to be above .500 in ACC play through these first four series. Despite a down year for the Diamond Deacs in 2018, they still took two of three in Winston last March against the Cardinals.
Virginia Tech (April 5-7): Last season the Hokies were one of the worst three teams in the ACC and I do not expect much to change entering the 2019 season. Virginia Tech went 21-33 (8-22 ACC) and did not advance to any postseason play. This is a massive home series halfway through the conference season for the Deacs coming off back-to-back road matchups and one Wake needs to win. I suspect they will. These teams did not meet in 2018.
@ Pittsburgh (April 12-14): Hopefully the weather in Pittsburgh has warmed up by mid-April when the Deacs roll into the Steel City to take care of business against the Panthers. Pitt, a perennial bottom-dweller in the ACC, has not advanced to the NCAA Tournament since 1995 and finished last year 29-26 (11-19 ACC). This is an ideal team to have as one of the five ACC road series and, like the Virginia Tech matchup, is one the Deacs need to win for both ACC seeding as well as overall national standing. These teams did not meet in 2018.
N.C. State (April 18-20): The Wolfpack are coming off a national seed in 2018 and, despite an upset loss in the subregional title game to Auburn, appears to be set for another top 25 performance this season. The Pack enter the year ranked 22nd by Collegiate Baseball and are one of several teams expected be a contender for the Atlantic Division title. State swept Wake in Raleigh last year by a combined 25-16 margin and it would only be appropriate for Wake to return the favor (particularly given Wake’s success against State so far in the 2018-19 academic year).
@ Florida State (April 27-29): Despite winning the 2018 ACC Tournament and receiving a national seed, the Seminoles were shockingly knocked off at home in the Tallahassee subregional in back-to-back games at the hands of Samford and Mississippi State. The Seminoles are slated to be good again this year, as usual, and are a consensus top 15 team. This is arguably the most difficult road test of the season for the Deacs (along with the season finale in Clemson) and Wake will need to be playing their best to rise to the challenge that FSU generally provides. Despite FSU’s success last season, Wake managed to take two of three against the Seminoles in Winston to win the series after falling in the Friday opener.
Miami (May 10-12): Wake gets a well-needed weekend bye the first weekend in May before hosting their home conference finale against a Miami team looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year hiatus. This is notable as the Hurricanes had advanced to 44 consecutive NCAA Tournaments prior to 2017. Miami went 28-26 (16-13 ACC) and were plagued by a series of non-conference losses last season. Wake and Miami did not play in 2018.
@ Clemson (May 17-19): Wake’s season finale could set up to be one of the most meaningful conference series in recent memory for the Deacons as they travel to Clemson against a talented squad expected to compete for an Atlantic Division title alongside FSU, Wake, State, and Louisville. Clemson is fresh off an NCAA Tournament bid and an impressive 47-16 (22-8 ACC) record before finding itself on the wrong end of an upset against Vanderbilt in the Clemson subregional. It is possible that this series dictates ACC tournament seeding and has the potential to provide a big win or two for the Deacs if both teams are ranked in the top 25. Clemson enters the season ranked by all major publications and swept the Deacs last year in Winston.
In general, this schedule is favorable for the Deacons. While the non-conference portion has a couple difficult matchups, Wake is setup to pad the win total prior to ACC play. Similarly, with four of the first six conference series against the bottom four teams in the ACC from a season ago, the Deacs have a fantastic opportunity to be a top 20 team in April.
Over the next few weeks, we will have additional coverage of the Diamond Deacs including a look at what Wake returns overall and what new faces fans can expect to produce in the 2019 campaign. This is an exciting time to be a Wake Forest baseball fan under Tom Walter and there is palpable buzz surrounding the program, particularly given Wake’s preseason top 25 ranking by D1 Baseball. If you have any questions or comments about baseball coverage for the upcoming season please let us know as we’d like to tailor our coverage to what our readers want to read.
As always, go Deacs.