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Opponent Preview: Wake Forest

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Meet the Demon Deacons... A team that’s better than their record

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAR 04 UMass Lowell at Wake Forest Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Wake Forest

Mascot: Hellish Preachers | School Location: Lung Cancer Capital, NC | Conference: ACC

2021 Record: 14-20 (6-17, 6th Atlantic) | 2021 RPI Rank: 65

2020 Record: 9-8 (1-2, T-4th Atlantic) | 2020 RPI Rank: 172

2019 Record: 31-26 (14-16, 5th Atlantic) | 2019 RPI Rank: 65


When? Where? How do I watch?

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

Game Time(s): Fri, Apr 30 @ 6:00pm | Sat, May 1 @ 4:00pm | Sun, May 2 @ 1:00pm

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

Radio: TuneIn App, GoPack (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Live Stats: Sidearm Stats


Tell me about this team

Tom Walter took over in Winston-Salem in 2010, taking the reigns of a program that had been to the NCAA Tournament just once in the prior seven seasons. Wake Forest had risen to phenomenal success over the latter half of the George Greer era, but fell hard between 2003-2009.

After being a more aggressive, small-ball style team early on under Walter - with a 45-74 ACC record to show for it - the coaching staff shifted direction to a more power oriented approach. The switch paid off, resulting in back-to-back NCAA Regional appearances in 2016 and 2017, with the 2017 team finishing as a Top 10 RPI squad. The four years since - including this year - haven’t seen that level of success, but there is still talent throughout the roster.

For the 2021 team, the offensive approach is to play for the big inning. Wake will rarely put down the bunt or attempt to steal a base - and they’re woefully poor when they do try, being successful on just 3-of-12 stolen base attempts in ACC play. That “play for the big inning” approach has paid off in the past, but this year the offense has disintegrated in conference play, with the team slashing just .231/.320/.381 in 24 ACC games.

Don’t let that poor slash line fool you, though. The Deacs have some serious power bats on the roster. The key to the Deacs is to pitch around them and miss off the plate rather than over it. Those power bats are also free swingers, so they’ll chase out of the zone.

The pitching staff has had a rough go of it, too, ranking 13th in ACC play in ERA and 12th in Opponent Batting Average. They are, however, tied for 4th in strikeouts having racked up 247 in 206.2 innings in ACC play. That team K/9 rate ranks 3rd in the ACC. The problem for Wake’s pitchers hasn’t necessarily just been the hits, but the fact that they’ve been letting a lot of those hits leave the park.

A major contributing factor to the pitching issues is a defense that’s just simply bad behind them. When you stack the roster with a lot of guys with the ability to drive the ball out of the park, you’re likely to end up with a lot of guys without defensive flexibility. Such is the case for Wake Forest, and the result is guys playing out of position, which further results in poor defensive efficiency (the Deacs have the 2nd worst team fielding percentage in ACC play at .960).

With all the above said, keep in mind that Wake has played a super difficult schedule. They currently have the 6th ranked Strength of Schedule in the country, and the 10th ranked non-conference SOS. Of their 34 games, 29 have been against Top 60 RPI teams. This is a battle tested team that cannot and should not be taken lightly.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: RHP Ryan Cusick (SO)

Saturday: RHP Rhett Lowder (FR)

Sunday: RHP William Fleming (JR)


Key Players:

Offense

SS Michael Turconi (SO) - .288/.375/.407, 5 2B, 3 HR, 24 R, 18 RBI, 13 BB, 34 K, 2-5 SB. Talented middle infielder and lefty hitter. On a 7-game hitting streak during which he’s 13-for-29. K’s have been an issue this year, but not as much recently.

3B Brock Wilken (FR) - .286/.367/.624, 9 2B, 12 HR, 30 R, 34 RBI, 16 BB, 26 K. Highly touted freshman has hit the ground running. Right bat who (obviously) has a ton of power.

1B Bobby Seymour (JR) - .267/.362/.580, 8 2B, 11 HR, 24 R, 39 RBI, 18 BB, 31 K. The 2019 ACC Player of the Year after leading the NCAA with 92 RBI. Big kid, big bat, and big power from the left side.

RF Chris Lanzilli (JR) - .248/.331/.474, 6 2B, 8 HR, 19 R, 21 RBI, 16 BB, 33 K, 1-3 SB. Freshman All-American in 2018 and a 2nd Team All-American in 2019. Has a ton of power, but can be prone to the K.

Pitching

RHP Ryan Cusick (SO) - 2-3, 3.11 EAR, 46.1 IP, 42 H, 23 BB, 74 K. Power pitcher with a high-90s fastball. His offspeed pitches aren’t anything special, but when you’re bumping triple digits, they don’t need to be the greatest. Recently ranked as the #16 player for the 2021 MLB Draft.

RHP Rhett Lowder (FR) - 1-2, 6.56 ERA, 46.2 IP, 59 H, 14 BB, 58 K. Freshman from Albemarle has been through the extremes that a first year player experiences. Has great stuff and good command. Huge potential.

RHP William Fleming (JR) - 2-5, 6.93 ERA, 50.2 IP, 61 H, 15 BB, 47 K. Big frame and a workhorse. Has gone 5.0 IP in 8 of 9 outings, even when he hasn’t been pitching the best. Has had an issue giving up the long ball, surrendering 13 this year.

RHP Eric Adler (FR) - 1-1, 5 SV, 2.03 ERA, 13.1 IP, 10 H, 9 BB, 17 K. Second year freshman. Turning into a premier bullpen arm in the ACC. Has allowed just 1 run over his last 11 outings.

RHP Camden Minacci (FR) - 1-1, 2 SV, 5.40 ERA, 20.0 IP, 18 H, 10 BB, 22 K. Highly touted freshman who has hit the skids lately over his last five outings. Still one of the most relied upon arms for the Deacs bullpen.

LHP Brennen Oxford (rSO) - 0-0, 0 SV, 4.09 ERA, 22.0 IP, 17 H, 15 BB, 26 K. Third-year player and oft-used relief arm. Top lefty on the team, so you’ll see him in big match-up opportunities.

RHP Cole McNamee (JR) - 3-1, 0 SV, 6.14 ERA, 14.2 IP, 12 H, 8 BB, 20 K. Two-way player. Remove three of his outings and his numbers are: 12.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 17 K. Granted, those three outings count, but just keep in mind that the guy has potential, although control has been a career long issue (29 BB, 15 WP, 7 HBP in 40.0 innings).


Quick! Fun Facts!

Terrell Tatum leads NC State for batting average in ACC play (.329, 15th ACC) and OBP (.413, 18th). Tyler McDonough is 2nd on the team for both at .311 (25th in the ACC) and .407 (19th).

Wake Forest does not have any current MLB players, which feels like the first program we can say that about in a long dang time.


Prediction

Wake isn’t as bad as they seem on the surface, but State does come into this with some momentum.

Outcome: The Pack takes two out of three.