Thursday, April 5, 2012

series preview: Wake Forest

Date/Time: Sat-Mon, 4/7-4/9; 4:00, 1:00, 7:00

TV: Monday on ESPNUVA; first two games on UVA live stream

Record against the Deacons: 71-84

Last matchup: UVA 13, WF 1 (5/25/11); Durham, NC (ACC tournament)

Last game: UVA 15, JMU 5 (4/4); UNC 4, WF 3 (4/1)

Last weekend: NCSt 2-1 over UVA (1-5, 5-2, 6-7); UNC 2-1 over WF (7-6, 3-7, 3-4)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA unranked; WF unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA unranked; WF unranked
NCBWA: UVA #29; WF unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #48; WF unranked
Coaches: UVA unranked; WF unranked

Opposing blogs: Blogger So Dear

Wake Forest lineup:

C: Brett Armour (.272-1-9)
1B: Carlos Lopez (.336-8-35)
2B: Conor Keniry (.344-0-12)
3B: Mark Rhine (.310-1-12)
LF: Evan Stephens (.333-1-14)
CF: Mac Williamson (.272-9-25)
RF: James Harris (.188-1-11)
DH: Charlie Morgan (.274-3-22)

Pitching probables:

Saturday: LHP Scott Silverstein (2-3, 2.68, 33 Ks) vs. LHP Tim Cooney (3-2, 4.06, 44 Ks)
Sunday: RHP Branden Kline (4-2, 3.09, 45 Ks) vs. RHP Justin Van Grouw (1-3, 5.35, 29 Ks)
Monday: RHP Artie Lewicki (1-1, 4.31, 25 Ks) vs. LHP Brian Holmes (5-0, 1.87, 44 Ks)

Happy Opening Day!  It is for me, anyway, as this is being typed while watching the Tigers take on the Red Sox in (finally) a game that matters.

The end of the winter baseball drought is apropos; it's been a long time since the major leagues played games that matter, but it's been even longer since the last time UVA and Wake Forest got together for a baseball series.  We did play them once last year in the ACC tournament, and the game ended via mercy rule (owing to the necessity of playing a lot of games on one day in one ballpark) and no doubt the Deacons remember that.  Otherwise, it's been since 2009.  March of '09, to be exact, when the Hoos swept the ACC opening series by a combined score of 47-13.  But this is a much better Wake Forest team than you might remember.

This weekend, by the way, is one of those with the schedule bumped a day backwards for TV.  It won't start til Saturday, and Monday's game is on ESPNU.

-- UVA at the plate

I suspect Wake Forest of being one of those teams that slides their ace to the back of the rotation in order to improve their chances of snagging a win.  Evidence: Sunday (Monday) starter Brian Holmes has every statistic in his favor and tossed a no-hitter against Marshall earlier this year.  I don't think they're bad enough anymore that they should have to do that, but whatever.  The national TV audience will probably see Wake's best shot.

Saturday and Monday, UVA will see a couple of tough-to-hit lefties, each with 44 strikeouts.  Both can be worked for a walk, though, too.  Tim Cooney is considered to have the best stuff in the Wake rotation, with a four-pitch arsenal, and Holmes throws a heavy fastball that's been hard to hit.  On Sunday, the only right-hander in the rotation takes the mound, and this is the day the Hoos have the best chance of teeing off; Justin Van Grouw has been maddeningly inconsistent this season.

So has the Wake bullpen.  It's been very up and down.  Closer Michael Dimock has eight saves but a 4.50 ERA.  He's also struck out 26 in 24 innings.

From the UVA side of things, Reed Gragnani didn't play at all against JMU this week, and if it's anything to do with his nagging injuries he's been dealing with this year, then it's unlikely he'll play this weekend, too.  With two southpaws on the hill, lefty Mike Papi also might not see much time.  (Wake has practically nothing but righties in the pen, so even if Papi doesn't start, he'll get some PH chances.)  This means basically that the outfield will again be Fisher-Shifflett-Harrington (and those corner guys have been swinging the bat very, very well lately) with a freshman DHing.  Last week we saw a lot of Brandon Cogswell, but he's a lefty; Nick Howard might be the guy this week.

-- UVA in the field

The preseason book on Wake Forest was that their hitting amounted to a big pile of baked ass.  Forget the book.  Wake's hitters have been very solid, 1 through 8 - the exception being James Harris, batting .188.

The top guys are the same as the ones who did all the hitting last year: Carlos Lopez and Mac Williamson.  Wake's hitting has been a rising tide lifting all their boats, and these two are no exception.  Lopez is batting .336 and slugging .645; he and Williamson already have eight and nine home runs, respectively.

Last year, 2B Conor Keniry batted .196; this year, he's Wake's leading hitter at .344.  Mark Rhine, who's taken over at third for Lopez (who's now at first) was a .170 hitter; he's at .310 now.  In all, it's a solid, well-rounded lineup that's a far cry from the anemic piddlers that trotted to the plate last year, and the funny thing is, it's mostly the same guys.

UVA must also watch out for Wake on the basepaths; they've been successful on 44 of 56.  With UVA's catchers allowing more than 70% of basestealers to succeed, that's not a good sign.  Three players in particular are a concern: Williamson, Keniry, and Pat Blair.  Blair, the Deacs' shortstop, leads the team with 21 walks.  Hoos pitchers have gotten occasionally careless, at times forgetting about baserunners, and that can't happen this weekend.

-- Outlook

Sunday provides an interesting matchup, with perhaps our best pitcher against definitely Wake's worst.  So that's "interesting" in the sense of "awesome."  The actual interesting games will bookend the series, especially Monday.  As in, it'll be interesting to see if Lewicki and the bullpen can match up against Wake's ace.

This makes Saturday's game absolutely vital.  The Hoos must knock Cooney off the hill.  UVA should be able to get the Sunday win, which means winning or losing on Saturday is the difference between trying for the sweep, or hoping for the series win against Wake's best pitcher.  This is a much-improved Wake team from years past, but even so, it's not a series the Hoos can afford to lose and maintain the goal of earning a regional 2 seed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Virginia has an outstanding ball club, and therefore,should be able to stand on their own merit, without a need for someone to belittle other players and/or teams. I was disappointed in some of the VA fans at last night's game. Again, I'm not talking about the team or coaches - they are exceptional. I know this is your blog, and you have free reign to say what you feel. But, as parent of a Wake Forest player, it would have been nice not to hear degrading comments from the VA fans. Heckling our catcher and other players is in my opinion, so childish and uncalled for. I may not be the norm, but I think of all the players at this level as great athletes, who should be applauded. And I do applaud, say good pitch, good play, etc. Isn't it after all, for the love of the game? And, for the record, the Sunday pitcher has been the Sunday pitcher since he threw the no-hitter on March 4th.