Deacons looking to make late-season surge

Deacons looking to make late-season surge
April 16
00:00 2015
(Above: Photo by Craig T. Greenlee- At the start of this week, Deacons senior Matt Pirro led the ACC in pitching wins.)

With a little under a month left in the regular season, Wake Forest remains hopeful that it has enough left in its tank to make a serious run in the ACC Baseball Tournament. When it comes to league play, the Deacons (9-9) have gotten mixed results.

The most recent example was a road trip vs. Pitt. In losing twice in the three-game series, Wake Forest was victimized by spotty pitching in the opener (8-3 defeat) and lack of bat production in the third game. The Deacons’ bats were silent in an 8-4 loss in which they went 1-for-12 at the plate with runners in scoring position.

In the middle game, however, the Deacons drilled eight extra-base hits in a 12-4 victory. Stuart Fairchild went 4-for-5 and drove in five runs. Gavin Sheets hit a three-run home run and Will Craig drove in three runs.

There’s still enough time left for Wake to put together a late-season surge. Even so, it could be an uphill battle. Right now, the Deacons are in the midst of a two-week stretch that included road trips for nine of its next 10 games through April 21. Wake returns to town for a four-game home stand that starts on April 24.

“It’s up to us to play to our level of ability,” said Coach Tom Walter. “Offensively, we’re balanced. There’s power in the lineup to hit home runs. But we can also steal bases and manufacture runs. This team is built to beat opponents in different ways.”

Wake Forest (22-16 as of April 13) ranked seventh nationally in team batting average (.313). Statistically, the Deacons rank among the ACC’s top three in most offensive categories, including batting average, runs batted in, home runs, slugging percentage and total bases.

Craig has emerged as a key factor in Wake attack. The sophomore first baseman is having an All-American kind of season. At the start of this week, Craig ranked among the national leaders in home runs (12), RBIs (54), total bases (110) and batting average (.407).

“There’s no denying that Will Craig has exceptional ability,” Walter said. “But there’s more to it than him being a talented player. He’s a hard worker who puts in the time and makes every effort to perfect his craft. When you put all of that together, you get outstanding results.”

Craig hasn’t had to be a one-man demolition crew. He gets ample assistance from Nate Mondou, who’s hitting .366 with nine homers and 49 RBIs. Fairchild (.370) also ranks among the ACC’s Top 5 in hitting.

Wake Forest has proven itself as a run-scoring outfit. Yet, the ability to go deep in conference tournament play and the NCAA playoffs hinges a lot on quality pitching. On the whole, the Deacons pitching staff has had its struggles this season (5.70 ERA is the highest in the ACC).

In ace right-handers Matt Pirro and Parker Dunshee, Wake Forest has two starting pitchers who have more than held their own this season. Pirro (6-2, 3.04 ERA) led the conference in wins and he’s struck out 49 batters in 47 1/3 innings. Dunshee (5-0 with 51 strike-outs in 46 innings) is equally impressive. His ERA of 2.54 was ninth-best in the league.

“Matt and Parker throw as well as anybody in the ACC,” Walter said. “When you have premier pitchers like those two, you always have a chance.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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