2020 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 20 Wake Forest
Last season: 31-26 (14-16 in ACC); missed NCAA tournament
Final ranking: NR
Coach (record at school): Tom Walter (294-274, ten seasons)
The good news: The Demon Deacons are going to hit, as they always do. First baseman Bobby Seymour, whose 92 RBI led the nation last season, outfielder Chris Lanzilli and DH Shane Muntz are all coming off of monster 2019 seasons. Catcher Brendan Tinsman and outfielder Michael Ludowig give the lineup enviable depth. They also added graduate transfer third baseman William Simoneit, who earned All-Ivy League honors in all three of his seasons at Cornell. Even if you allow for the fact that Wake Forest plays in a very offensive environment, that’s an impressive group.
The bad news: The pitching staff has a lot to prove. Last year, the team ERA was 5.89, and no pitcher who started more than four games had an ERA better than Colin Peluse’s 5.74 mark. Peluse is also now in pro baseball, which means the most accomplished of Wake’s starting pitchers from a year ago will have to be replaced. All four projected starters—junior Jared Shuster, sophomore Ryan Cusick, junior Antonio Menendez and junior William Fleming—pitched on the Cape this summer and showed well, but for the team to get back in the postseason hunt, this unit will have to show improvement.
Player to know: Jared Shuster, LHP.
With the pitching staff holding the key to Wake Forest getting back into postseason position, Shuster might be the player most important to the Deacs’ success in 2020. The projected Friday starter had a 6.49 ERA in 68 innings last season, but he went to the Cape over the summer and dominated, putting up a 1.40 ERA and a 35-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32 innings. If Shuster is truly ready to be an ace, it changes the ceiling for what Wake Forest can accomplish.
Path to Omaha: Wake Forest will hit well enough to compete with anyone, even away from the hitter-friendly environment that is David F. Couch Ballpark. Just moderate improvement on the mound could very well get the Demon Deacons back in a regional, but to get to Omaha, each member of their veteran rotation will need to make a leap, and with Menendez and perhaps Fleming moving from the bullpen to starting roles, new reliable relief arms will need to emerge to close out wins.
Ranking the Top 25 College Baseball Offensive Performances of the 2020 Season
Standout offensive performances come in all shapes and sizes, and even in a shortened 2020 season, there were plenty worth celebrating.
|C||Brendan Tinsman, So.||.265||.326||.529||10||41||155|
|1B||Bobby Seymour, Jr.||.377||.439||.576||9||92||236|
|2B||D.J. Poteet, Jr.||.199||.317||.318||5||23||176|
|SS||Michael Turconi, So.||.273||.379||.349||2||24||172|
|LF||Christian Long, Sr.||.162||.244||.216||0||2||37|
|CF||Michael Ludowig, Jr.||.300||.405||.405||3||30||190|
|RF||Chris Lanzilli, Jr.||.347||.409||.620||16||67||245|
|DH||Shane Munitz, Jr.||.313||.477||.674||14||40||144|
|LHP||Jared Shuster, Jr.||4||4||6.49||68||94||0|
|RHP||Ryan Cusick, So.||7||3||6.44||65.2||55||0|
|LHP||Antonio Menendez, Jr.||3||1||3.09||55.1||73||1|
|RP||Shane Smith, R-Fr.||DNP -- Injured|
|RP||Bobby Hearn, R-Sr.||2||0||3.31||32.2||27||0|