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Opponent Preview: Wake Forest

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Meet the Demon Deacons... They’re

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Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Wake Forest

Mascot: Demon Deacons | School Location: Winston-Salem, NC | Conference: ACC

2018 Record: 22-26 (11-13, 5th Atlantic) | 2018 RPI Rank: 71

2017 Record: 43-20 (19-11, 2nd Atlantic) | 2017 RPI Rank: 10

2016 Record: 35-27 (13-17, 6th Atlantic) | 2016 RPI Rank: 28


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: NC State’s Doak Field at Dail Park, Raleigh, NC

Game Time: Friday, May 11 @ 6:30pm | Saturday, May 12 @ 6:30pm | Sunday, May 13 @ 1:00pm

TV: ACC Network Extra (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh

Live Stats: Sidearm Stats


Tell me about this team

Wake Forest is firmly in “rebuilding year” mode. They’re not bad by any means, but given their 2017 season, a step-back year was bound to happen. The Demon Deacons had eight players selected in the 2017 MLB Draft from their 2017 Super Regional team, including two 2nd round selections and four selections in the top seven rounds. That left the 2018 team to have to rely on a younger roster with just two seniors (who have appeared in a combined 4 games this year). With a roster of that little senior leadership, you’re bound to have your bumps. The focus is really on 2019; however, there are five juniors (Aiello, Mueller, Roberts, Supple, Witt) that will likely be gone after this year, so 2019 might not be the season Deacons fans are hoping for, either.

The strength of this Wake Forest team really lies with the starting pitching and the top two bullpen arms. That’s impressive given that the Deacons lost their entire weekend starting rotation from a year ago (all three were drafted), but this year’s rotation arms were top arms in last year’s bullpen, so that makes the transition easier.

After the top two relief arms on this year’s team (Supple, Witt), things get iffy very quickly. The bullpen aside from Supple and Witt have allowed 112 ER in 138.0 IP, equating to a 7.30 ERA, with 106 BB. Basically, the equation against the Deacs is easy: work the starting pitchers to try to get them out of the game as early as possible. Burn up as much bullpen as you can whenever you can, and the series is likely to go your way.

The big issue with Wake Forest is their offensive production. Four draftees departed the lineup from a year ago, and that coupled with drops in productivity from those that did return hurts. In 2017, the Deacons slashed .308/.401/.509 with 106 HR in 63 games (six players had double-digit HR totals). In 2018, those numbers have dropped to .254/.360/.366 with 34 HR in 48 games (the team leader has 8 HR). The 2017 Deacons weren’t afraid to strikeout, averaging 8.5 per game, but with the power numbers they produced, that was more than a fair trade-off. This year’s team with their lack of power needed to cut down on the strikeouts, but they’re up to 9.0 Ks per game. No bueno. In their last ACC series, Wake Forest batters struck out 40 times in three games against Georgia Tech, that featured 12 Ks in Game 1, 17 in Game 2, and 11 in Game 3 (GT took the series 2-1). The offense has scored more than six runs in a game only 13 times in 48 games, including just twice in 20 games against RPI Top 50 teams.

Key Players:

Offense

2B Jake Mueller (JR) - .314 BA, .427 OBP, .361 SLG, 194 AB, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 29 R, 17 RBI, 35 BB, 23 K, 16-23 SB. Mueller can handle a bat. The 2017 2nd Team All-ACC performer is a likely Top 10 round pick in this year’s draft with his great plate discipline and solid defensive play at 2B.

3B Johnny Aiello (JR) - .251 BA, .368 OBP, .421 SLG, 183 AB, 5 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 33 R, 36 RBI, 23 BB, 63 K, 10-10 SB. Aiello, a member of the 2017 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, hit .328/.417/.643 with 17 2B and 20 HR a year ago when he was named 2nd Team All-ACC. Call it pressing too much, call it teams adjusting to him, but whatever it is, Aiello has struggled this year. He’s never been much of a patient hitter, but he’s still a highly regarded prospect on MLB Draft boards.

SS/OF Patrick Frick (SO) - .271 BA, .401 OBP, .373 SLG, 166 AB, 8 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 25 R, 28 RBI, 33 BB, 20 K, 6-7 SB. Frick has great plate discipline and puts the ball in play a ton, but doesn’t quite have the BA and OBP that you’d expect given those qualities. He’s still a talented young player and could see himself start to take off as a pro prospect this summer.

DH/C Shane Muntz (FR) - .269 BA, .355 OBP, .441 SLG, 145 AB, 10 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 21 R, 27 RBI, 17 BB, 35 K, 1-1 SB. Muntz is a big dude at 6’4, 225 lbs. He was a 36th round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft by the Padres, and has a bright future - probably more so as an every day player and less on the mound, although he can miss a ton of bats (and the strike zone, too). He should be the starting catcher, but Logan Harvey has started over 100 games in his career and he has to overcome the “beat out the incumbent” deal.

OF Chris Lanzilli (FR) - .254 BA, .379 OBP, .441 SLG, 118 AB, 10 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 19 R, 21 RBI, 23 BB, 38 K, 3-5 SB. Another good, young player for the Deacs. Lanzilli has had some growing pains, but has shown glimpses of promise that he could become a great hitter.

Pitching

RHP Griffin Roberts (JR) - 4-4, 3.56 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .213 OBA, 78.1 IP, 60 H, 31 R, 31 ER, 29 BB, 109 K. Roberts will be at least a 2nd round draft pick next month in the MLB Draft. The Deac’s Friday starter has a sick slurve and a FB with a lot of sink on it. He’s good. Real good. Like really really good.

RHP Conor Morgan McSweeney (SO) - 2-5, 0 SV, 3.98 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, .241 OBA, 63.1 IP, 57 H, 37 R, 28 ER, 29 BB, 61 K. A key reliever form a year ago, McSweeney’s the Deacon’s Saturday starter this year. The 6’4 sophomore is a nice piece to build around for the future, along with...

RHP Colin Peluse (SO) - 6-1, 0 SV, 3.62 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .230 OBA, 72.0 IP, 62 H, 33 R, 29 ER, 22 BB, 52 K. Peluse, the Sunday starter, is a 6’3, 230 lbs righty with a linebacker size and a hefty mid-90’s fastball to suit. His slider is also very good, although typically lacks that killer quality to it. He’s not a huge strikeout pitcher, but he gets the job done.

RHP Rayne Supple (JR) - 4-2, 8 SV, 1.38 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .150 OBA, 39.0 IP, 20 H, 9 R, 6 ER, 22 BB, 45 K. Supple has some really good stuff, but has had control issues up to this year (yes, I just said a dude with 22 BB in 39.0 IP used to have control issues). Supple is one of two bullpen arms to be fearful of. If a team believes in his increased control, he could be a very high draft pick in June. Dude can miss a ton of bats.

LHP Tyler Witt (JR) - 2-3, 2 SV, 3.71 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, .256 OBA, 43.2 IP, 44 H, 24 R, 18 ER, 15 BB, 38 K. The 6’5 lefty didn’t pitch in 2017, but he’s been a huge part of the bullpen this year. He’s not an overpowering pitcher in the least, being more of an offspeed pitcher, but he’s still very effective. He should hear his name called in the middle rounds (20-30) of the draft.


Quick! Fun Facts!

Wake Forest’s first ever baseball game was against NC State, a game played on April 14, 1890. I cannot find anything that refers to the outcome of that game, and Wake Forest’s record book only starts their season-by-season record tally in 1891, so... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

NC State holds a 109-57 lead in the all-time series between the two schools.

Despite being located in Winston-Salem, only two players on the Wake Forest roster hail from the state of North Carolina.


Prediction

This is going to be a tight one. Wake has the starting pitching to win the series, but they lack the bullpen depth to carry a win if the starters can’t go deep into games, while they also lack the hitting prowess to win a slugfest.

I think Wake takes the Friday game in a pitchers duel, while State bounces back with a sound win on Saturday. The Sunday game is close before the Wolfpack comes from behind late, finally getting to a thin Wake Forest bullpen.