Demon Deacons set for first Super Regional appearance since 99

Wake looks to advance to College World Series for first time since 1955

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Wake Forest outfielder Stuart Fairchild (4)

The Wake Forest baseball team is entering unfamiliar territory, or at the very least, territory it has not entered in a long time. After winning their regional on home field last weekend, the Demon Deacons will head to their first super regional series since 1999 this weekend against the Florida Gators in Gainesville, Florida.After a stellar regular season that saw the team go 38-17 (18-10) ACC, the Demon Deacons were selected to host a regional at David F. Couch Ballpark in Winston Salem for the first time since 2002. This team did what that team could not, however, and won its regional to move on.The Deacs went 3-0 in regional play, beating University of Maryland, Baltimore County 11-3 in their opening game before sweeping two games, 4-3 and 12-8, respectively against West Virginia to seal the deal and move on.Advancing to the College World Series in Omaha for the first time since winning it all in 1955 will be no easy task for Wake, however. Florida will be a tough out, especially on its home field in Gainesville.The Gators come into the series with a no. 3 overall national seed and an impressive 45-17 overall record (Wake is 42-18), including going 21-7 in a tough SEC baseball conference that included fellow national seed LSU. The Gators went 3-1 to secure their regional, with wins over Marist College and USF, along with a split against Bethune-Cookman. Florida’s lineup is led by a pair of strong hitters. Sophomore Nelson Maldonado leads the team in batting average at .320, to go with a .462 on-base percentage, .471 slugging percentage and 31 RBI. He is closely followed by senior outfielder Ryan Larson, who is batting .318 with a .406 on-base percentage, 478 slugging percentage and 23 RBI. Junior catcher JJ Schwarz leads the team in homeruns with 10.On the mound, junior righty Alex Faedo is the ace of the Gators’ staff, coming in with a 7-2 record, 2.70 ERA and .221 opponent batting average.For the Demon Deacons’ offense, all of the top six hitters in the order are batting over .300. Junior outfielder Stuart Fairchild is the leader there, batting .359 with a .438 on-base percentage, .645 slugging percentage and 67 RBI. Sophomore Jake Mueller is right behind him with a .358 batting average, .429 on-base percentage, .449 slugging percentage and 34 RBI. Junior Gavin Sheets is the long-ball leader for the Deacs with an impressive 20, to go with a whopping 81 RBI.On the mound for Wake, senior Connor Johnstone leads the way with an 8-0 record, 3.36 ERA and .248 opponent batting average.In terms of team stats, it’s a pretty even split, with Wake holding the edge in the major offensive categories, and Florida having the same in terms of pitching. The experience advantage obviously goes to the Gators, who have made four super regional appearances in the last six years, with four trips to the College World Series in the same, while Wake is headed to its first super regional of this millennium, and has not seen college baseball’s biggest stage in over 60 years.This already been a remarkable season for Wake though, one in which it has already reached a lot of places it had not for a long time. Don’t count the black and gold out in its attempt to take another step towards being the ACC’s first national champion since its own triumph in 1955.