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First Pitch: #TheRivalry Hits The Diamond For Big ACC Series

Wake Forest got hot over the last week but cooled off towards the tail end against Clemson and Coastal. What's that mean as BC takes on their mortal enemy in Winston-Salem?

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

On Paper

Record: 19-12 (6-6 ACC)
Last Time Out: Took two of three from Clemson (8-2, 7-3, 2-6), then lost to Coastal Carolina (4-10)

Around The Horn

Two words: Will Craig.

Sophomore Will Craig was named Perfect Game's Midseason Player of the Year. He's the nation's leader in RBIs, home runs, and total bases. He ranks in the top 20 in the nation in slugging percentage, batting average, doubles, on-base percentage, and runs scored. He leads the ACC in nearly every offensive category. He's not draft eligible until after next season because he's not a junior.

In other words: we hate this guy.

Craig is a big part in why Wake Forest is hitting .310 as a team. He's hitting .425 with 10 homers and 45 RBI. He has 48 hits. He probably sold his soul to the Devil for all I know. This guy can crush the ball, and he's the centerpiece of a lineup that can also crush the ball.

Wake Forest's offense on the whole is the only ACC team hiting over .300, but they're not even close to dipping below that mark. They're a full 13 points better than the second best team (NC State), and they rock a .484 slugging percentage. Their 331 hits are 40 better than second place Miami, and their 224 runs are second to only the 241 scored by Florida State. They have 80 team doubles (20 more than second place Georgia Tech), and their 33 team homers are four more than second place Florida State. Their 516 total bases are 80 more than second place Miami. Needless to say, BC will have its hands full.

Beyond Craig, this is a team built around its biggest strength at the dish. Nate Mondou is second in the league with 47 hits, hitting .359 on the season. Stuart Fairchild is hitting .361; Justin Yurchak is hitting .338, and Jonathan Pryor is hitting .330. Seven hitters who appeared in just about 20 games or more are over the .300 mark.

For a BC team that's been pitching great, this is arguably the biggest test of the year. Wake KILLS the ball. Consider this weekend a complete all-hands on deck situation.

On The Bump

So if Wake Forest is so good at hitting, how does BC win games this weekend?

They do it by getting into slugfests with them. Wake Forest's pitching staff is the worst in the league. Their team ERA is dead last in the league at 5.72, and they've given up 207 runs, just 21 less than their prolific offense scored. They give up a ton of hits (302, just 27 less than what their offense accumulated through 31 games), and they're prone to having really bad outings.

So far this year, Wake Forest gave up five or more runs more often than not, and their record's taken a hit as a result. They managed to outslug Elon, 25-12, but it was tempered by a 10-3 loss the next day. Earlier in the year, there's the 16-12 loss to Bucknell, the 10-3 and 8-4 losses to UNC-Wilmington. Appalachian State scored 10 in a 10-1 win over the Deacons, and Virginia Tech picked up a 12-7 win. Against Florida State, the Deacs lost twice (12-2, 9-6), and gave up 10 runs to Miami twice in a pair of losses (15-2, 12-7).

The problem with being built around hitting is that it's more prone to a power outage than the pitching is. We've talked a lot about how good the BC lineup has been lately even though some of the stats don't really indicate as much. But if they were able to rock Duke (the league's second best pitching staff), there's no reason we can't expect more of the same against a hapless staff like Wake Forest.

That's not to say Wake doesn't have talent. Matt Pirro is the league leader with six wins at 6-1 with a 2.89 ERA. Parker Dunshee is 4-0 in seven appearances (four starts) with a 1.91 ERA and two saves. But outside of those guys, nobody has an ERA even hovering near the 3.00 mark save for Andrew Loepprich's 3.72 ERA. 12 pitchers have an ERA of 5.00 or higher.

Scoreboard Watching

Wake Forest is one of four teams sitting inside the ACC Tournament bubble with a 6-6 conference record, tied with Virginia, UNC, and Virginia Tech. One game separates them from Clemson and Georgia Tech, with BC behind the Tigers and Yellow Jackets by a half of a game.

This weekend, Georgia Tech plays Virginia Tech, North Carolina plays Clemson, and Virginia plays Louisville. Coupled with the BC-Wake series, whoever is able to win two of three games (or gain sweeps) is going to find themselves with a potentially good seed.

2.5 games separates fifth place in the standings from 11th. There's going to be a lot of moving and grooving after this weekend.

NC State, three games ahead of BC in the fourth seed, hosts Florida State, and Miami hosts Duke. Those are games that these teams will all be paying attention to if the results break the right way for them.

Music To Listen To While You're Wondering If The Demon Deacon Is Still Stalking Baldwin Jr.

2Gether - Calculus (You + Me = Us)

Back in 2000, MTV spoofed the Boy Band Craze by creating their own boy band and building a movie around them. Turns out the music ended up being popular for the time, and they got their own TV series on the station. Think of it like The Monkees, only updated for 2000.

Anyways, my wife liked them back in the day and suggested this song because, as she put it, "The Wake Forest mascot is so freaking weird, he's kind of like a satire of an actual mascot." CAW CAW

Fun Fact Of The Week

Bet you didn't know this, but the Wake Forest home stadium once played host to a number of Carolina League minor league teams, including the Winston-Salem Red Sox affiliate of Boston. There's still a minor league team in Winston-Salem, called the Dash, but they've since moved to BB&T Stadium.

Prediction Time

Honestly, I don't really have one for this game. If you believe in offense, then Wake Forest should win two or three games. If you believe in pitching, well, you just hope that BC can shut down the Deacons enough to win some games. My prediction isn't going to be about wins this time, but I'll make it the following key.

If you really want us to start believing in the Eagles baseball team, then this is the weekend from which to go out and lay claim and notice to the rest of the league. I'm expecting this to be a wild and unpredictable weekend. GO EAGLES!