This is Wake Forest’s first NCAA Super Regional since 2017, and its first time hosting this juncture of the tournament in program history.
And, with a big event, comes a big name. The Alabama Crimson Tide are coming to town.
Saturday: 12pm ET / ESPN
Sunday: TBD / TBD
Monday: TBD / TBD
Alabama (No. 16 Overall Seed)
Conference Record (SEC): 16-14
Key Regular Season Wins: Vanderbilt (2), Auburn (2), Texas A&M (2), Ole Miss (3)
Key Regular Season Losses: LSU (3), Mississippi State (2), Arkansas (2), Kentucky (2), Florida (2)
How the Crimson Tide got here:
Alabama slotted in as a regional host and the No. 16 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament after making it to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.
In their home regional, the Crimson Tide blitzed through the competition, not dropping any of their three games. But, the undefeated stretch was a bit of a false flag — Alabama only defeated Nicholls by one run on a walk-off, and took down Troy 11-8 in a high-scoring thriller a day later. To their credit, the team dominated Boston College in an 8-0 shutout in the regional final.
This is Alabama’s first NCAA Super Regional since 2010.
Breaking down the pitching:
Alabama’s pitching is solid at the top. But, unfortunately for the Crimson Tide, it is a tall — nearly impossible — task to match up evenly with Wake Forest on the mound.
Luke Holman: 7-3, 3.46 ERA, 75.1 IP, 48 H, 32 R, 29 ER, 31 BB, 79 K, 1.05 WHIP
Jacob McNairy: 7-2, 3.68 ERA, 78.1 IP, 79 H, 39 R, 32 ER, 21 BB, 83 K, 1.28 WHIP
Garrett McMilan: 4-2, 4.89 ERA, 42.1 IP, 38 H, 24 R, 23 ER, 17 BB, 36 K, 1.30 WHIP
Holman and McNairy are the aforementioned “solid” pitchers at the top for Alabama, each having over 75 innings to their name. The mid-three ERAs are good for SEC bats, and the WHIPs are impressive. The inflation behind McNairy’s WHIP doesn’t come from walks — both are pretty good at limiting free 90’s — but hits. Both pitchers average roughly a strikeout per inning, which is a bit on the low side, especially in comparison to Wake Forest.
The outsider in this rotation is McMilan. His first pitching appearance of the season came at the beginning of April, and he only has nine starts to his name. The strikeout rate is under one per inning, and he has given up more home runs than McNairy despite pitching 36 less innings.
In the NCAA Regional, Holman took the bump against Nicholls and did his job, holding the opponent to two runs over six innings. McMilan was roughed up by Troy the following day, giving up six runs on six hits in four innings. McNairy was the most impressive of the three, tossing a three-hit, scoreless 7.2 innings to win the regional over Boston College.
More likely than not, it will be Holman, McNairy and McMilan — in that order — for the Crimson Tide this coming weekend.
Hagan Banks: 3.48 ERA, 33.2 IP, 22 H, 16 R, 13 ER, 7 BB, 33 K, 0.86 WHIP
Alton Davis II: 3.86 ERA, 32.2 IP, 30 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 11 BB, 32 K, 1.26 WHIP
Kade Woods: 4.71 ERA, 28.2 IP, 21 H, 17 R, 15 ER, 14 BB, 38 K, 1.22 WHIP
Braylon Myers: 5.33 ERA, 27.0 IP, 22 H, 16 R, 16 ER, 9 BB, 20 K, 1.15 WHIP
The biggest storyline for the relievers isn’t who’s pitching — it’s who isn’t. Top bullpen arms Grayson Hitt and Ben Hess are both injured. It has already been announced that Hitt is out for the season, and Hess hasn’t pitched since March 31. Hunter Furtado, a transfer from Wake Forest, hasn’t pitched since May 23.
So, the Crimson Tide have had to cobble together innings out of the bullpen, and the performances have not been top-tier thus far. Banks only recorded one out in the Tuscaloosa Regional, walking two batters. Woods was better, striking out three batters and allowing one run in 1.2 IP. Myers didn’t pitch in the regional.
Aidan Moza ate three innings for the Crimson Tide this past weekend, yet only has 21 on the stat sheet for the entire season. Hunter Hoopes also appeared twice. The most important arm is going to be Davis, the closer with eight saves. He appeared twice in the regional and was electric, not allowing a single hit.
With this in mind, it will be absolutely critical for Alabama to get good performances out of its starting pitchers to lessen the load on a bullpen that is not at full capacity.
Breaking down the bats:
The Starting Lineup
SS Jim Jarvis: .275 AVG, 0.805 OPS, 33 BB, 36 K, 6 HR
LF Tommy Seidl: .358 AVG, 1.020 OPS, 32 BB, 46 K, 9 HR
RF Andrew Pinckney: .347 AVG, 1.104 OPS, 40 BB, 65 K, 17 HR
1B Drew Williamson: .310 AVG, 0.952 OPS, 42 BB, 64 K, 15 HR
DH Dominic Tamez: . 287 AVG, 0.823 OPS, 24 BB, 29 K, 5 HR
3B Colby Shelton: .291 AVG, 1.104 OPS, 33 BB, 58 K, 22 HR
2B Ed Johnson: .325 AVG, 0.903 OPS, 33 BB, 29 K, 6 HR
C Mac Guscette: .266 AVG, 0.829 OPS, 13 BB, 22 K, 8 HR
CF Caden Rose: .253 AVG, 0.847 OPS, 26 BB, 37 K, 7 HR
The trio of Seidl, Pinckney and Williamson are the heart of the Crimson Tide’s offense, and will likely define the level of success Alabama has against Wake Forest’s vaunted pitching staff. The home run threat is evident with these three, and with Shelton in the six-hole.
In order to do so, the group will have to improve from its performance in the Tuscaloosa Regional. Seidl, Pinckney and Williamson combined for 2-13 from the plate in a decisive final against Boston College. Guscette and Tamez were the only two players to record more than one hit in the game.
Super Regional Prediction
This series is not going to be easy for Wake Forest. Alabama is a quality team and it hosted a regional for a reason. But, the pitching depth is a huge cause for concern. If the Crimson Tide’s starting pitching can’t go long into a game and get bounced around, there is not a lot of proven depth in the bullpen to match Wake Forest’s bats.
And, the team’s star bats must come to play. In terms of a staff as a whole, this will be the best pitching Alabama will face all season. Consistent quality at the plate will be needed to get to Rhett Lowder, Josh Hartle, Sean Sullivan, Seth Keener and co.
The Deacs are on a roll. The pitching has been outstanding, and the bats have been active. This will be stiffer competition, but if Wake Forest maintains its unbelievable momentum, the team will move on to its first College World Series since 1955.
My prediction, the Deacs go 2-0 to book a ticket to Omaha.
Coverage of the Winston-Salem Super Regional, and Wake Forest baseball, will continue throughout the NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned to Blogger So Dear for news, game stories and features.