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Wake Forest Hosts Alabama And Looks to Avoid #1 Curse

(Photo Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics)

Two Regional Hosts go head-to-head in the Winston-Salem Super Regional this weekend, with the winner going to Omaha to compete for a National Championship. Wake Forest hasn't been to the Men's College World Series since 1955, while the Alabama Crimson Tide last went in 1999. It's an intriguing ACC vs SEC showdown that starts on Saturday afternoon and should provide some great baseball.

#1 Wake Forest (50-10)

How They Got Here

Wake Forest dominated the Winston-Salem Regional by scoring an incredible 48 runs in three games. A late night pounding of Maryland was sandwiched by routine routes of George Mason. Only seven total runs were scored against the Deacons over those three wins, and they looked every bit the #1 team everyone expected.

Team Strength

The strength of Wake Forest, with all due respect to their slugging offense, is the pitching staff. The starting rotation will likely consist of Rhett Lowder and Josh Hartle in the first two games, with either Seth Keener or Sean Sullivan starting if Game 3 is played. Whichever pitcher isn’t in the plans for the third game will be employed out of the bullpen as a reliever. Throw in the dominant arms of Camden Minacci, Cole Roland, and Michael Massey, and Alabama could struggle to score runs this weekend.

Team Weakness

Wake Forest is the most complete team in college baseball and doesn’t have much in terms of weakness. There are times where they aren't as efficient in terms of driving in baserunners, but that's not always prevalent. Their biggest weakness coming in might just be the recent struggles that top overall seeds have had getting to Omaha. In 2021, Arkansas was stunned by NC State in the Supers, while last season, a 50-win Tennessee team was upset at home by Notre Dame, just short of the MCWS.

Team X-Factor

Wake Forest’s X-Factors go beyond the likes of superstars such as Nick Kurtz, Brock Wilken, and Rhett Lowder. In terms of the Demon Deacon lineup, it’s essentially pick your poison. Second baseman Justin Johnson went 7-15 with 13 RBIs over the weekend, while outfielder Pierce Bennett went 10-13 with 11 RBI. If those two continue to rake behind Kurtz and Wilken, it’s going to be tough for Alabama to keep the games within striking distance.

On the pitching side, it’s a similar situation. Even when a team gets to the Wake Forest bullpen, things don’t get any easier, with Michael Massey serving as the team’s set-up man for closer Camden Minacci. In 37.1 innings pitched this season, Massey, the Tulane transfer, is 3-0 with a 2.65 ERA. Hitters are batting just .165 against him.

#16 Alabama (43-19)

How They Got Here

Alabama stayed hot, as they hosted a Regional in Tuscaloosa and went undefeated over the weekend. They didn’t look particularly impressive, however, as they needed a walk-off win to survive 4-seed Nicholls and several defensive miscues to get past Troy. They did look like a top team in the Regional Final, against Boston College, which they won 8-0 to clinch their spot in the Super Regionals.

Team Strengths

The Crimson Tide were 2nd in the SEC in average and 4th in walks. They’re going to try and string hits together and hope one of their big boppers can come up with a big hit. Drew Williamson, Andrew Pinckney, and Colby Shelton all have over 15 home runs on the year. Outfielder Tommy Seidl, the grad transfer from Harvard, had 9 home runs while leading the team with a .462 OBP. On the pitching side, they are 7th (and first in the SEC) in the country with a 3.96 ERA. Luke Holman and Jacob McNairy are very good starters, but there are some question marks beyond that going into this weekend.

Team Weakness

Alabama is without key members of their bullpen in Grayson Hitt, David Hess, and Hunter Furtado, which means the Tide will have to rely heavily on Alton Davis II and Hagan Banks. They will need long outings from Holman and McNairy, paired with some heroics out of the lesser utilized members of their bullpen, if they hope to contain the Demon Deacon lineups.

Team X-Factor

Garrett McMillan could be the X-Factor on the mound for Alabama if they get to a third game. He’s made nine starts this season for the Tide and is 4-2 with a 4.89 ERA. He gave up six earned runs to Troy in four innings this past Saturday, so he’ll need to be better than that if he wants to give Alabama a chance at the upset.

An X-Factor in lineup will be Second Team All SEC outfielder Andrew Pinckney, who had an OBP of .500 during the Tuscaloosa Regional, with a triple and a home run. He'll need to consistently hit the ball hard and reach base to keep up with a high-scoring Wake Forest team.


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