Will Craig is, in the parlance of baseball scouting, a big donkey. At 6-3, 235 pounds, Craig's power stroke carried him to 21 homers in his first two seasons for Wake Forest. Dude showed off the hit tool in a big way last year as well, posting a .382 average. All that hittin' and homerin' garnered Craig the ACC POY honor in '15 and booked him on just about every all-American first team.
Now Craig has done the baseball equivalent of breaking Madden. Or he sold his soul. Or maybe he ordered an officially licensed Jobu doll from MLB.com and sacrificed a whole semi full of live chickens. Whatever he's done, it's working to the tune of a .475 batting average. But Craig isn't sacrificing any power for the sake of average; he leads the NCAA with a .950 slugging percentage. His SLG% alone is higher than any N.C. State player's OPS! The big donkey's driven in 41 runs in 24 games (he missed seven due to injury). He's got a .573 OB% and, despite being a power guy, has walked more times (15) than he's struck out (12).
Oh, and just for kicks and giggles, he's toed the rubber eight times on the season, going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA and three saves.
Elliott Avent, if you're reading, we will give you a free pass on sacrifice bunts this weekend. You sacrifice to your non-sabermetrical heart's content, but under no circumstances should you challenge Craig in any sort of situation resembling a tight baseball game. Up two with the bases loaded? Put him on!
Walks may well tell the tale in this weekend's pivotal three-game set at the Doak. The Demon Deacons draw an average of five walks per game and are not shy about wearing one, having been hit a Jake Armstrong-like 39 times in 31 games. The hard to hit but often control-challenged State staff has piloted the team to a -4 deficit in walks and a -20 deficit in HBPs this spring. The Pack do not want to turn this into a battle of bases on balls and hit by pitches (save for, of course, whenever Craig is anywhere near the dish).
Florida State (7-1), Miami (10-2), and Louisville (9-3) have separated themselves from the herd in ACC play and appear to be locks for the league's postseason tournament. It's safe to say Virginia Tech (1-11) will be staying in Blacksburg when tourney time comes, and Boston College (3-7) and Duke (4-8) have probably dug themselves a hole they can't dig out of. That leaves eight teams for seven spots in the tournament, and all eight teams are bunched together with records ranging from 7-5 to 5-7. The Pack (5-5) are probably a safe bet to get in the 10-team field, but taking this series could go a long way in solidifying a top six seed and thus avoiding a play-in game. Pitt and Wake are tied for the final spot at 5-7, so obviously a lot is riding on this series for the Deacons as well.
Two of the three games will be televised for the glorious price of free, including Friday's 6:30 p.m. opener streaming on The Ocho. Saturday's game (4 p.m.) is only available through gopack's all-access. After an off day Sunday, the series concludes Monday night at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.