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Opponent Preview: Wake Forest

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Meet the Demon Deacons... A better team than 2018, but still rebounding

Wake Forest v North Carolina State
Making shadow puppets... Pay attention, Deacon! There’s a game going on!
Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Wake Forest

Mascot: Ironic Demonic Preachers | School Location: Not Wake Forest, NC | Conference: ACC

2019 Record: 22-16 (9-9, 5th Atlantic) | 2018 RPI Rank: 84

2018 Record: 25-32 (13-17, 5th Atlantic) | 2018 RPI Rank: 71

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


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: David F. Couch Ballpark (Winston-Salem, NC)

Game Time(s): Thursday, Apr 18 @ 6:00pm; Friday, Apr 19 @ 6:00pm; Saturday, Apr 20 @ 4:00pm

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

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh, GoPack All-Access

Live Stats: StatBroadcast (Thursday | Friday | Saturday)


Tell me about this team

First, let’s take a look at what was said about Wake Forest from our 2019 Season Preview:

Wake returns nine of their top ten hitters from a year ago. SR 2B Jake Mueller (.303/.420/.360, 43:30 BB:K, 18 SB), JR SS/UTIL Patrick Frick (.290/.405/.391, 12 2B, 36:27 BB:K), SO 1B Bobby Seymour (.286/.342/.441, 12 2B, 7 HR), SO OF Chris Lanzilli (.268/.378/.529, 13 2B, 9 HR), SO OF Michael Ludowig (.267/.350/.335, 8 2B, 10 SB), SO OF DJ Poteet (.255/.385/.462, 7 2B, 9 HR), SO C Shane Muntz (.253/.353/.406, 11 2B, 5 HR), SR C Logan Harvey (.215/.316/.264, 8 2B), and JR OF Christian Long (.224/.341/.319) all return. This is an offensive attack primed to improve by leaps and bounds. FR C Brendan Tinsman has an opportunity for some early playing time, as do FR INFs Michael Turconi and Michael Wein.

The Demon Deacons lose their top starter and top reliever from a year ago. JR RHP Colin Peluse (6-2, 3.87 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .233 OBA) and JR RHP Morgan McSweeney (2-6, 4.44 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, .248 OBA) return two-thirds of last year’s weekend rotation. SO LHP Jared Shuster (0-3, 7.41 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, .233 OBA) was the primary midweek starter for the Deacs a year ago and is a candidate to step into the weekend rotation. SR LHP Tyler Witt (2-4, 2 SV, 5.26 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, .299 OBA) and RS-JR LHP Bobby Hearn (1-2, 1 SV, 5.67 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, .260 OBA) will lead the bullpen. JR RHP Reese Robinson is a transfer from Cincinnati who should add bullpen depth. Given the limited number of proven arms, several freshman should get plenty of opportunities to make an impact. FR RHPs Ryan Cusick, Wyatt Beddow, and Shane Smith, and FR LHP Brennen Oxford are all talented arms.

The hitting will be there, the question is whether the pitching staff can pull their own weight. The Deacons should pound out midweek wins with their bats, but unless the freshman pitchers show out, that bullpen is going to get abused in ACC play.

2019 Projected Record: 29-27 (12-18)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No

Wake is pretty much playing at the same level, just slightly better from a year ago if you look at their performance based on opponent RPI groupings. This team is no joke, though, and seems to be hitting their stride - with hitting leading the way. Since getting swept by Louisville (we know that feel, bro), the Deacs are 7-2. Granted, their two ACC series in that time span have been against Coastal Division bottom-dwellers Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh, but winning in the ACC is no easy task regardless of the opponent. Besides, Virginia Tech is a Top 50 RPI team, and Wake has a win over a very good Liberty team (RPI #68) during that 7-2 stretch.

This team is pretty much what we thought they’d be: a slugging group that needs the pitching to step up if they want to get where they want to go. During that 7-2 stretch that this team is currently riding, the offense is producing 9.4 runs per game, up from their already gaudy 7.9 runs/game (15th nationally) season average. The pitching staff, on the other hand, is allowing opponents to slash .272/.371/.425 on the year. The bullpen has a few nice pieces, but isn’t very deep in terms or quality.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: RHP Colin Peluse (JR)

Saturday: RHP Morgan McSweeney (JR)

Sunday: RHP Ryan Cusick (FR)


Key Players:

Offense

SS Patrick Frick (JR) - .384 BA, .479 OBP, .529 SLG, 138 AB, 8 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 39 R, 35 RBI, 28 BB, 13 K, 6-7 SB. The Deacs’ two-hole hitter had a great 2018 season and is currently blowing away the numbers he posted there. He’s riding an 8-game hitting streak heading into this series. Frick projects more as a second baseman at the next level, but is starting to move up draft boards with his play.

1B Bobby Seymour (SO) - .379 BA, .455 OBP, .562 SLG, 153 AB, 10 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 36 R, 53 RBI, 21 BB, 27 K, 2-2 SB. The Deacs 6’4, 250 lbs left-handed hitting clean-up man is a masher. He’s been on fire lately, riding a 7-game hitting streak (including a 7 RBI game at Pitt last weekend) and has multiple hits in ten of the last 17 games. Seymour is a name to watch for the 2020 draft.

LF Chris Lanzilli (SO) - .335 BA, .381 OBP, .598 SLG, 164 AB, 16 2B, 0 3B, 9 HR, 37 R, 44 RBI, 11 BB, 39 K, 3-3 SB. Three-hole hitter. Was a Freshman All-American last year. Your typical power-hitting, middle of the order guy. Cranks a ton of deep shots, but also strikes out a lot while not walking much. He’s cut down on his K’s from a year ago (good), but has cut down even more on his walks (not good). If he shows more patience at the plate, he’ll be an even more dangerous hitter.

C/DH/RF Brendan Tinsman (FR) - .295 BA, .357 OBP, .616 SLG, 112 AB, 6 2B, 0 3B, 10 HR, 26 R, 35 RBI, 8 BB, 42 K, 0-0 SB. Tinsman has a lot of pop for a freshman and the team works to get his bat in the lineup however possible, but defense is definitely not his strength. He’s thrown out just 4 of 24 attempted base stealers this year and has 16 passed balls. At the dish, he’s an aggressive swinger who goes after his pitch early in the AB.

RF Michael Ludowig (SO) - .288 BA, .403 OBP, .371 SLG, 132 AB, 5 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 29 R, 20 RBI, 26 BB, 29 K, 5-5 SB. The left-handed hitter has become more patient at the plate in his second year, with the results showing in his BB:K rate and OBP. He has some pop in his bat, even if the overall power numbers haven’t shown up in his time at Wake.

DH/RHP Shane Muntz (SO) - .284 BA, .491 OBP, .605 SLG, 81 AB, 4 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 23 R, 20 RBI, 27 BB, 35 K, 0-0 SB. Papa Muntz was a 36th round pick (Padres, drafted as a catcher) coming out of high school in 2017. He’s a better hitter than a pitcher - at least at this point in his career - even though he’s not the everyday DH for this squad (but maybe he should be).

Pitching

RHP Colin Peluse (JR) - 2-5, 5.82 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, .286 OBA, 18.0 K%, 8.2 BB%, 51.0 IP, 59 H, 39 R, 33 ER, 19 BB, 42 K. Peluse is a big, 6’3, 230 lbs righty with a mid-90’s fastball. He was the Deacs’ Sunday starter in 2018 and has moved to the Friday spot this year. He’s been either one or the other this year, with no in-between; in five of his starts he’s allowed 2 or fewer runs while going 6.0+ innings, and in his other five starts he’s allowed 5 or more runs while going over 5.0 innings in just two of those starts.

RHP Morgan McSweeney (JR) - 3-3, 6.15 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, .272 OBA, 16.6 K%, 13.0 BB%, 41.0 IP, 44 H, 30 R, 28 ER, 25 BB, 32 K. No, not this MacSweeney, sadly. After a couple of really good starts in non-conference play, he’s struggled in ACC play, with his innings diminishing in each subsequent start. He’s always been prone to giving up the long ball, but that combined with down strikeout totals and up walk numbers is a recipe for disaster.

RHP Ryan Cusick (FR) - 5-2, 7.30 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, .341 OBA, 17.9 K%, 10.3 BB%, 40.2 IP, 57 H, 35 R, 33 ER, 20 BB, 35 K. The 6’6 freshman was a 40th round selection (Reds) in last year’s MLB Draft. This will be just his second start. His fastball will sit in the low 90’s and gets a good speed differential with his change.

RHP Antonio Menendez (SO) - 5-1, 1 SV, 2.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .219 OBA, 29.8 K%, 9.9 BB%, 39.1 IP, 32 H, 13 R, 12 ER, 17 BB, 51 K. Menendez was so-so as a freshman, but has become one of (if not the) favored bullpen arm for the Deacs this year. On a team that doesn’t have a lot of strikeout pitchers, he’s one.

RHP William Fleming (SO) - 1-2, 5 SV, 2.30 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .202 OBA, 17.5 K%, 8.7 BB%, 31.1 IP, 22 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 11 BB, 23 K. Comes from a lineage of former UNC athletes, so you should definitely not like this guy already. Fleming is Wake’s closer and has done a good job of avoiding giving up hits, even if some of it is based off of BABIP luck.

LHP Bobby Hearn (RS-JR) - 2-0, 0 SV, 1.50 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, .169 OBA, 22.2 K%, 11.1 BB%, 24.0 IP, 14 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 11 BB, 22 K. The top lefty bullpen arm for Wake, Hearn has finally got his control issues under... err... control, and the results have been great for him. He’s more of your crafty lefty style pitcher than your blow-it-by-you guy.

LHP Jared Shuster (SO) - 4-1, 0 SV, 6.51 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, .258 OBA, 31.8 K%, 9.8 BB%, 47.0 IP, 49 H, 38 R, 34 ER, 21 BB, 68 K. Shuster was in the weekend starting rotation until being replaced by Cusick last weekend. Has put up impressive K numbers this year, but has also given up a ridiculous 19 doubles on the season. Walks have really been an issue over his last four outings.


Quick! Fun Facts!

Go get your series history from GoPack.com, because they really have set up a cool feature for this... hopefully they keep it going forward.

Wake has a really sweet ballpark, especially from a players’ perspective. They opened up a $14M Player Development Center in 2017 and the field itself is fitted with a Trackman Pro video system.


Prediction

Both teams can mash, but NC State has the edge in pitching. Given recent trends, this could be a very high-scoring weekend for both squads.

Outcome: The Wolfpack take two-of-three from the Deacons to get back to their winning ways in the ACC.