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Preview: Winston-Salem Regional, plus predictions

Wake Forest will win three-straight to move on to the super regional

Wake Forest Athletic Communications

On Monday afternoon, the NCAA Baseball Tournament field was released, with Wake Forest — the No. 1 overall seed — drawing Maryland, Northeastern and George Mason.

The Terps and Huskies will face off at 1pm ET on Friday, with the Deacs and Patriots following at 7pm.

Now, previewing Wake Forest’s regional opponents.

No. 2 Maryland

Overall Record: 41-19

Conference Record (Big 10): 17-7

Key Wins: Iowa (3), Indiana (3)

Key Losses: Vanderbilt, Ole Miss (3)


Maryland has a strong top of the rotation pitching duo in Jason Savacool and Nick Dean, who have split the season as Friday-Saturday starters. Savacool, with a 4.30 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, has proven to be the pitcher with a longer leash, going roughly 5.2 innings per appearance. Dean (4.86 ERA and 1.41 WHIP) averages 5.0 innings per start. Both have similar K/9 rates — roughly 9.0 — and have an exact same opposing batting average of .255. Either could go first against Northeastern, but I lean towards Savacool.

Behind those two, there is no clear-cut third starter, but Kyle McCoy has started twelve games with a 5.91 ERA, but has only gone 53.1 total innings (~ 4.1 innings per start). Ryan Van Buren (6.17 ERA) and Nate Haberthier (7.99 ERA) have each started seven games.

*Update: McCoy has been ruled out this weekend per an interview with head coach Rob Vaughn on Sirius XM*

Out of the bullpen, David Falco Jr is the go-to player, along with Kenny Lippman. Falco has allowed just three home runs in 47.1 innings, posting a 3.80 ERA. Lippman, with a 4.82 ERA, has given up 11 homers and walked 28 in 4.82 innings.

Falco often has closed out games, as has Nigel Belgrave (5.67 ERA).


The Terps prolific batting starts at the top of the order with Luke Shliger, Matt Shaw and Nick Lorusso opening 1-2-3.

Shliger, with a .336 average, sets the table well with a team-high 22 doubles. He has also walked 65 times, a team best by 20. Shaw and Lorusso both lead the Terps with 23 home runs, while Lorusso has knocked in 99 runs.

First baseman Eddie Hacopian follows behind in the five-hole with a .331 batting average, but is not a big-time home run threat. Kevin Keister is the perfect back of the lineup hitter with a .308 batting average. Along with his strong batting, he gets walks, to the tune of a .429 on-base percentage. Center fielder Elijah Lambros is a back-end threat to hit the long shot, and also has a propensity for getting hit by the ball.

No. 3 Northeastern

Overall Record: 44-14

Conference Record (CAA): 20-10

Key Wins: Indiana State (3), Duke, Boston College, UConn, Maryland

Key Losses: William and Mary (2), UNC Wilmington (4), Harvard


Northeastern’s Friday starter is Wyatt Scotti, who posted a 3.80 ERA in 71 innings. But, he very well might not be the No. 1 guy. That title could be bestowed to Aiven Cabral, who’s 2.26 ERA leads all starters, as does his 79.2 innings. Just a freshman, Cabral has just 20 earned runs to his name and has only allowed four home runs. He also leads the team in strikeouts with 68. The third-starter role is filled by Eric Yost, who trails just Cabral with 78.2 innings, but gives up a lot of hits (91) while generating a 4.23 ERA.

Jake Gigliotti started eight games this season, all in a midweek role. With eight wins, Gigliotti has kept his hits number down in 65.5 innings, while being a strikeout machine with nearly one per inning. He should be a valuable long arm.

Additionally, Griffin Young (2.15 ERA) and Patrick Harrington (4.54 ERA) eat a lot of innings out of the bullpen, both exceeding 40. Young is especially strong, keeping his WHIP under 1.00, while allowing just one home run this season. He fills the role of closer with 10 saves. Nick Davis and Jack Beauchesne are also options, but both have ERAs over 5.00 and WHIPs nearing 2.00.


For Northeastern, leadoff hitter Mike Sorota is THE guy, setting the pace with a .359 batting average and tied team-high 18 home runs. He also walks at a high rate (43), good for a .484 on-base percentage. Cam Maldonado, the five-spot right fielder, is also quite formidable, slightly trailing Sorota with a .357 batting average, but he strikes out more and doesn’t draw as many walks.

Cleanup hitter Alex Lane leads the Huskies in RBI (57), but also strikeouts (53) and seldom walks. Third baseman Danny Crossen and first baseman Tyler MacGregor both have above .300 batting averages, with MacGregor tying Sorota for homers.

Carmelo Musacchia is also a threat with the bat, but hasn’t played since May 16, before the CAA Tournament.

No. 4 George Mason

Overall Record: 34-25

Conference Record (A-10): 13-10

Key Wins: Saint Louis (2), Maine, Davidson

Key Losses: Saint Joseph’s (2), Dayton (2), ECU (3), William and Mary (2), Towson


George Mason’s best starter, statistically, is Chad Gartland, who totes a 3.43 ERA in 89.1 innings, but also had four bullpen appearances. Gartland allowed 81 hits and has a strikeout rate of under one per inning, while also giving up 11 home runs. He does have one complete game this season.

Ben Shields leads the team in starts with 15, but has gone 15 less innings than Gartland. His 4.36 ERA is buoyed by a very good 102 strikeouts. His opposing batting average is .197; he doesn’t give up a lot of hits. Konner Eaton is also a starter — his only appearances have been as a starter — but he only has pitched 39.2 innings, roughly 3.0 innings per start.

Kyle Smith appears to be the first man out of the bullpen with 40.2 innings in 19 appearances. His 4.43 ERA includes a low strikeout count, but also not a high number of walks. Owen Stewart and Nolan Lamere are options, with ERAs over 4.00.

Christian Mracna (2.08 ERA) leads the team in saves and seems to be the closer. He has only allowed one home run this season, but has a rather high walk rate.


Leadoff hitter South Trimble leads the team in batting average (.332) and hits (73), but is not much of a home run hitter. He doesn’t strike out often, though. First baseman Woody Reece is the other above. 300 hitter in the five-hole, but like Trimble is not much for extra-base hits.

Catcher Connor Dykstra and center fielder Jordan Smith are the team’s best home run hitters, while also flirting with a .300 batting average. Smith does strike out often.

Game Predictions:

Game 1: Maryland 7, Northeastern 4

Northeastern’s pitching is good, but I’m not as bullish on the Huskies as others are going into the regional. Maryland fell in this very midweek matchup three weeks ago, but had an arm going that I believe will serve a bullpen role. This time around, Jason Savacool should be on the mound — an ace. Additionally, David F. Couch Ballpark is a hitter’s dream. I expect the Terps’ big bats to serve them well here.

Game 2: Wake Forest 12, George Mason 4

From what I’ve seen out there, there’s been a lot of chatter about Ben Shields being the Patriots’ best pitcher. I’d counter with Chad Gartland, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him out there in a game George Mason must win. He does have one complete game this season.

But, Seth Keener will get the job done for the Deacs and the bats will enjoy the home crowd, and dimensions. Mind you, no 1-seed lost in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament last year.

Game 3: Northeastern 8, George Mason 3

George Mason is a red-hot team, having upset its way through the A-10 bracket to steal an auto-bid. But Northeastern is a quality team, and the road for the Patriots ends here.

Game 4: Wake Forest 5, Maryland 2

Following Monday’s tournament selection, Brock Wilken said he was “excited” to see the Terps in the regional because of the “bitter taste” they left by ending Wake Forest’s season last year.

The difference in this game — Rhett Lowder will be the starting pitcher for the Deacs. One of the best pitchers in the nation will hold Maryland at bay, and the bats will do enough.

Game 5: Northeastern 7, Maryland 6

I believe this is going to be the most competitive game of the entire regional. Northeastern and Maryland’s third pitchers are comparable, but with McCoy, the Terps will likely have to dip into the bullpen early. Yost will get the Huskies over the finish line with a higher innings count.

*Update: McCoy has been ruled out this weekend per an interview with head coach Rob Vaughn on Sirius XM*

Game 6: Wake Forest 11, Northeastern 3

For a regional-clinching third game, Josh Hartle is likely one of the best pitcher’s in the country to be in the position to do it. On the other hand, Northeastern’s arms are going to be maxed out after a trying game with Maryland the previous evening.

Wake Forest moves on to its first super regional since 2017, where it will host (another prediction) Alabama.

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Coverage of the Winston-Salem regional, and Wake Forest baseball, will continue throughout the NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned to Blogger So Dear for news, game stories and features.