The Cavaliers impressed everyone on Wednesday (including myself) with their dismantling of the JMU pitching staff. Their nine run fourth inning helped propel them to an easy 15-5 victory over the intrastate rival. If it were up to me, the team would have calmed down after the fourth inning and saved a few of those hits and runs for this weekend when the take on Wake Forest. (Apparently, you can't stop scoring and put these hits and runs in the bank. WTF?!)
When looking at the ACC standings, it appears Wake Forest is nearly identical to the Cavaliers. They enter the weekend with a 19-11 record (UVa: 19-10-1) overall and a 5-7 record in the ACC (UVa: 6-6). Also similar to UVa, Wake was very competitive in their series against FSU. They lost their first two games to the Seminoles by a single run but were able to squeak out a victory on Sunday with a 7-5 win. In their most recent series last weekend in Chapel Hill, the Deacons were able to steal a victory in an extra inning game on Friday but dropped the final two contests. Back to the similarities between the two teams. UVa and WFU only have two similar opponents on the year (FSU and NC St) and both teams have a combined 1-5 record against the two.
Of course, no preview would be complete without a review of how Coach O'Connor and Co. have fared against Wake over the previous couple of years. Although Oak hasn't been nearly as successful against Wake as he has been against Clemson, he also hasn't been beaten constantly like he has against NC St. Coach has a 12-8 record against Wake and because of the ACC conference expansion, hasn't had the opportunity to get three wins in a series since 2009. Even though he is 12-8, most of those losses came at the beginning of his tenure with the Cavaliers. Since the beginning of 2008 season, UVa has been 6-2 against Wake (one of those losses was an '08 ACC tournament game that didn't begin til about 12:30 and we were already securely in the Champ. game against Miami. Needless to say, we didn't really care).
Now to the important stuff for this weekend: the actual other team.
The pitching staff for Wake has been decent. They have a 4.07 ERA which puts them at 10th in the ACC. What is so peculiar is they only have a .240 batting average against which is even better than UVa's. What does that mean? They walk a ton of batters. Sure enough, when you look at the ACC stats, Wake comes in with the second most walks allowed this season. Wake doesn't make a lot of errors(.970 fielding%, 4th in the ACC), so the Cavaliers might not get many hits this weekend, but earning walks and putting runners on base is going to be the biggest factor on the weekend.
Even though their pitching staff as a whole hasn't been all that dominant, their Sunday (Monday this weekend) starter, Junior LHP Brian Holmes has been lights out (shocker, he wears #45. DUH!). Holmes has a 1.87 ERA in his seven starts which has turned in to a perfect 5-0 record. He has nearly a 2-1 strike out to walk ratio which seems to have been an important factor in only giving up nine earned runs on the year.
On the other side, Wake is literally in the middle of the pack in nearly all offensive categories except one. They are tied with VPISU for the ACC lead in home runs but I can promise you that is because they play in the smallest cracker jack box in the entire conference. I don't have the stats but I would bet a very large amount of those 28 home runs have come in Winston Salem. The great news for the UVa staff is this Demon Deacon team likes to strike out.... a lot. They have struck out 239 times on the season which comes out to nearly eight strike outs per game. It sounds like Wake has gotten a little home run happy and they enjoy coming out of their shoes swinging for the fences. The friendly confines of the Dav doesn't lead to a lot of home runs which should play well in to UVa's favor.
It's no secret that this UVa team started out rather poorly. Errors and walks were being made which lead directly to walks. Over the past few weeks the errors have been reduced dramatically (Hoos actually have the best fielding% in the ACC) and the walks have declined. This weekend, with the aggressiveness of Wake, I think the UVa staff and hitters should have a great weekend leading to a two victory series win.
Because this weekend is a Saturday-Monday series, the Monday night game will be on ESPNU for all to see. Until then, I will do my best to provide the updates on the Twitters (@STLUVaBaseball). Enjoy watching Tiger kick clubs around at the Masters and the Braves winning Saturday and Sunday to take the series from the Mets and of course, GO HOOS!