Wake Forest No. 1 For First Time In BA Rankings History

Image credit: Tom Walter (Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wake Forest on Monday rose to No. 1 in the Baseball America Top 25 for the first time in program history. The Demon Deacons not only top the rankings, they also lead college baseball in wins (39) and winning percentage (.848).

Prior to this season, Wake’s highest ranking in the Top 25 had been No. 3 in 2002. The Deacs that season went 47-13, matching the program record for wins, and hosted regionals. The program also has twice played for the national championship, winning the 1955 title, and losing the 1949 title game to Texas. But because the BA Top 25 only dates to 1981, this is their first week at No. 1.

While Wake’s ascension is a big moment for the program, it also is surprisingly noteworthy for the ACC. By ranking No. 1 on May 8, the Deacs are the first ACC team to rank No. 1 this late in the season since Virginia won the 2015 national championship and topped the final rankings.

Since Virginia’s triumph, the ACC teams to rank No. 1 are Miami in 2016 (April 11-18), Louisville in 2017 (March 13-20), Notre Dame in 2022 (March 14) and now Wake Forest.

In that stretch, the ACC has typically ranked as the second-best conference in the sport behind the SEC. It’s averaged eight NCAA Tournament bids in the six seasons since Virginia won the conference’s first national championship in 60 years. That mark trails only the SEC’s average of 8.83 bids in the same timeframe.

But despite the ACC’s depth, it hasn’t produced the same level of top-end teams. Nine teams from the conference have advanced to the CWS in the last six seasons but none have played for the national championship since Virginia’s triumph. Louisville in 2019 and North Carolina State in 2021 both made it to the semifinals in Omaha (the Wolfpack infamously were removed from the tournament due to Covid-19 protocols).

Success in the NCAA Tournament is an imperfect barometer of a conference, but at the same time the SEC has been separating from the field—both in the tournament and the regular season. It has won the last three national championships and eight of the last 13, as well as putting at least one team in the CWS championship series in 13 of the last 14 years. But lately it’s been the Pac-12 serving as the SEC’s foil in terms of producing championship-caliber teams, not the ACC. Three different Pac-12 schools have won the national championship in the last 10 seasons, while Virginia is the lone ACC team to play for a national championship in that time.

It’s unfair to expect or even ask 2023 Wake Forest to carry the conference’s championship hopes and overcome previous disappointing NCAA Tournament results. Duke, Miami and Virginia all rank in the top 15 and have shown high-end potential this season, while Clemson this week surged into the rankings for the first time this season and is one of the hottest teams in the country, having won 15 of its last 19 games.

The Deacs have earned their moment in the sun and consideration as the national championship favorites. They rank No. 2 in RPI, trailing only Kentucky, and project to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They lead the nation in team ERA (2.51) and are fifth in scoring (9.4 runs per game). Wake broke the program’s attendance record over the weekend, drawing 6,155 fans for its series against Boston College.

This has already been a special season for the Deacs and now they can celebrate another noteworthy first in program history. But ranking No. 1 in May is only the start. Wake will be looking to finish the season still on top of the sport.

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