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#12 Duke Upsets #1 Wake Forest


By Nicholas Dioli


Streaks do not last forever and this weekend the #1 baseball team in all the land put their 11 consecutive ACC series victories on the line against one of the hottest teams in the country.


Now, if you did not know much about this year's Duke Blue Devils baseball team, here is the readers' digest. They are coming off a 2023 Super Regional appearance and return the most production of anyone in the ACC. There really isn't a break in the lineup as five of the nine batters are hitting over .300 and a couple of their batters are hitting over .400. The pitching staff is lead by Jonathan Santucci, who, going into this week, was the favorite to win ACC Pitcher of the Year. Their bullpen has been unbelievable so far, and the standout has been Charlie Beilenson who is currently leading the ACC with seven saves.


Going into this series, Duke is the hottest team right now and they have the resume to prove it with wins over Coastal Carolina, Indiana, and a dominating sweep over Northwestern. The Blue Devils put up four touchdowns, that's right 28 runs, against a now 10-4 Appalachian State team. There was no question that Duke had a serious chance to beat Wake Forest in this series.


As for the Deacs, we all know who they are. They have the three headed monster rotation that consists of Josh Hartle (the ACC Preseason Pitcher of the Year), transfer Chase Burns, and Michael Massey. We know the bats-- Nick Kurtz, Adam Tellier, Jack Winnay, and Jake Reinisch. But going into this series, it was clear that the bats were not going to be the same as last years Demon Deacons squad. That's what happens when ten players are drafted and three significant role players went into the transfer portal (Danny Corona to Missouri, Adam Cecere to Penn State, and Lucas Costello to Miami). But with new faces in the lineup, the Deacs have found other ways to score runs and win ball games without all of the power we were used to in 2023.


Game 1


This was the highly anticipated pitchers duel we had all been waiting for. Jonathan Santucci vs Josh Hartle. But this duel did not live up to expectations as both pitchers struggled in their starts.


Jonathan Santucci: 2.2I P | 6 H | 5 ER | 3 BB | 4 K

Josh Hartle: 3.2 IP | 11 H | 6 ER | 2 BB | 4 SO


Game 1 turned into a slug fest with hits being traded back and forth in the early going. Duke led going into the top of the 3rd, until Seaver King hit a three run blast to center, to give the Deacs a 5-4 lead. Unfortunately for Wake, that was the last blow they could muster. From that point on, it was the AJ Gracia show for the Devils. He would respond with a two run bomb to right center in the fourth and a solo shot in the sixth to extend Duke's lead to 8-5.


From then on Charlie Beilenson would shut down Wake Forest with a line of:


3 IP | 2 H | 0 ER | 2 BB | 2 K


Wake had a chance for a big inning in the seventh with bases loaded and nobody out, but the clutch hitting would fall short for the Deacs.


Final Score: Duke 8 Wake Forest 5


Game 2


In game two, it was all about Chase Burns for Wake Forest. Duke did not have an answer for the former Tennessee ace who had a record breaking strikeout night..


Chase Burns: 6 IP | 2 H | 1 ER | 2 BB | 14 K


Duke just couldn't touch Burns. They simply did not have an answer for him. He was touching 100mph on his fastball on occasions and consistently throwing 98mph the entire game.


The same couldn't be said for Duke starter Andrew Healy as the Wake Forest bats got to him early in the game.


Andrew Healy: 4 IP | 4 H | 6 ER | 4 BB | 3 K


Thanks to the clutch hitting of Jack Reinisch and Austin Hawke, six runs was more than enough for the Deacs to hold on to the win.


Final Score: Wake Forest 6 Duke 3


Game 3


The story of this game was really that neither team felt like they wanted to win. For Wake Forest, it was just sloppy. For Duke, it was letting Wake Forest crawl back into the game.


It seemed like Wake Forest had a lot of momentum going into this game after the miraculous start of Chase Burns the night prior. Now the Deacs would send out the reliable veteran Michael Massey against freshman standout Kyle Johnson. Johnson was one of the most talked about freshmen in the ACC coming into the 2024 season because of his two-way star potential on the mound and in the batter's box.


Michael Massey: 2 IP | 3 H | 1 ER | 4 BB | 3 K


Kyle Johnson: 4 IP | 3 H | 2 ER | 2 BB | 2 K


The early story is that Massey should have gone longer, but because of costly errors in the infield, his pitch count just kept climbing. He could not get out of the third inning once Logan Bravo scored on a wild pitch putting Duke up 3-1.


The fifth inning was an absolute circus, as both teams scored a combined nine runs. How the runs were scored varied for each team. In Duke's top half of the fifth, they scored five runs on just one hit. The miscues for Wake continued as they gave up three walks that each scored a run, threw a wild pitch, and committed multiple errors. In the blink of an eye Duke was up 9-2 on that one hit.


In Wake's bottom half of the fifth, on the other hand, the bats started to come alive. They received clutch hitting from Jack Winnay and Javar Williams that allowed Wake to inch back into the game and get within one run after an Adam Tellier home run in the sixth. But the bats would run out of juice yet again for the Deacs as they had the bases loaded in the eighth inning and failed to drive in any runs.


In the bottom of the ninth, Charlie Beilenson would come in for the Blue Devils and slam the door on the Deacs by striking out the side.


Final Score: Duke 10 Wake Forest 8


Summary


If you're a Wake Forest fan, it's clear that this isn't the 2023 squad. But it does not mean that this isn't still one of the best teams in the nation. All streaks come to an end. The rotation is still really good and the bats are finding other ways to score. Even with Nick Kurtz struggling, he is still leading the ACC in walks by a wide margin. Why is that? The 2023 Wake Forest lineup didn't give a break. Last year, Brock Wilken was batting behind Nick, followed by Pierce Bennett, Justin Johnson, Bennett Lee. You had to pitch to everybody. Teams now would rather let Nick take his base than smash one over the wall.


Wake does need to figure out the bullpen. Will Ray has been carrying the load for the Deacons this year and is doing a fantastic job with a 0.68 ERA. But one can only rely on one guy for so long. Luckily reinforcements are coming as key veteran arms will be back in the pen such as Crawford Wade, Cole Roland, and Chase Walsh.


Bullpens struggle, as we found out on Sunday with multiple teams around the conference like Boston College, NC State, Miami, Virginia, and even Duke having trouble getting outs from the 'pen.


If you're a Duke fan, be confident in believing that this is the most complete team in the ACC right now. The lineup does have a weak spot, there's a stud closer, the rotation is really good, and there's a very talented bullpen. It's okay to be excited if you're a Blue Devils fan. They're not 2023 Wake Forest, but as everything stands in the ACC, they're the closest thing to it.


For this upcoming week, Wake Forest will be playing their midweek game on the road against Coastal Carolina, before traveling to Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers in a three game series.


Duke will be playing a two game midweek series against Rider, a team they played in the Conway Reginal last year before they welcoming the Clemson Tigers into town for a three game series.


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