When you’re running in the fast company Wake Forest is keeping this ACC baseball season, one stumble will allow a team to run past you.
All that will be on coach Tom Walter’s mind as his 16th-ranked Deacons open a three-game series Friday at Florida State. Wake Forest enters the series in line for one of the top four seeds at the ACC Baseball Tournament, but needs to keep pace to stay ahead of fifth-place Virginia.
The Deacons, 35-15 overall, are currently fourth in the standings at 15-9 against ACC competition. The 10th-ranked Cavaliers, 36-11 overall, are one game behind at 14-10 going into this weekend’s home series against Miami.
“It’s a huge series with lots of implications,” Walter said by phone Wednesday night on the ride back from a 9-2 victory at Radford. “Obviously we want to stay in the top four in the league.
“Right now we’re ahead of Virginia, but if we lose this series we might not be ahead of Virginia.”
The new tournament format the ACC will introduce this season makes it that much more important for the Deacons to clinch one of the top four spots. The 12 teams that qualify will be assigned spots in one of four pools, depending on how they finish in the regular season. Although the winners of the two divisions will be assigned the top two seeds, remaining seeds will be determined by league record, regardless of division.
Wake Forest, which will close its regular-season conference schedule next week at home against Pittsburgh, could well end up in the same pool as Virginia as either a fourth or fifth seed. But should pool play with all three teams at 1-1, the higher-seeded team advances to the single-elimination semifinals.
And should the Deacons and Cavaliers close the regular season tied, the tie-breaker may well come down to how both did against Florida State.
Virginia, for the record, will close its regular-season conference schedule at Georgia Tech.
With his team all but assured its second straight bid to the NCAA Tournament, Walter has set his sights on the Deacons earning the right to play host to a regional for the first time since 2002. Winning two or three games this weekend at Florida State would definitely fortify the resume to be submitted to the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
“If we want an opportunity to host, this is one of those weekends the committee is going to look at,” Walter said. “We won a series at Miami, but we did not win a series against Louisville and Clemson, and we had chances to do that. In the (Louisville) series we won the Friday night game. And then at Louisville we had a lead late in the second game and had a chance to clinch the series there.
“So it would be a big statement for our program to go out against a perennial powerhouse and win a series on the road.”
Senior right-hander Parker Dunshee (8-1, 4.21) is scheduled to start for the Deacons on Friday, with sophomore right-hander Cole Sands (5-2, 4.98) scheduled to pitch for FSU.
On Saturday junior right-hander Donnie Sellers (3-4, 4.23 ERA) is scheduled to start for Wake Forest and sophomore left-hander Tyler Holton (6-2, 3.03) is scheduled to start for FSU.