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2023 ACC Baseball Tournament Preview: Keep Your Eyes On Wake Forest

 Leif Skodnick  |    May 23rd, 2023 1:35am EDT

Durham, North Carolina and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park will host the ACC Baseball Championship this week. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network

The Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament starts Tuesday at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C., and all eyes will be on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Wake Forest, 45-9 overall and 22-7 in the ACC, has been ranked No. 1 in the D1Baseball.com’s NCAA Division I rankings the last three weeks after wrestling the top spot away from Louisiana State. The Demon Deacons also hold the top spot in the NCAA RPI ranking, ahead of Kentucky, Arkansas, LSU, and Florida, who make up the remainder of the top five.

Two years ago, Wake Forest posted a 20-27 overall record and went 10-22 in ACC play, failing to qualify for the conference tournament – an ignominious distinction cast upon the two worst teams in conference play each season. The Demon Deacons rebounded last season, going 41-19 overall and 15-14-1 in ACC play and earning a berth in the NCAA Regional at College Park, Maryland, where they went 1-2.

Perhaps the biggest key for the Demon Deacons has been Rhett Lowder, a wild-haired, 6-foot-2 righthander who was the ACC Pitcher of the Year in 2022, the first ever for Wake Forest, and an All-America selection as a sophomore. In 88.2 innings this season, Lowder has allowed just 69 hits and 17 walks against 108 strikeouts, while allowing just 17 earned runs and posting a 1.73 ERA.

Brock Wilken leads the Demon Deacons at the dish with 69 RBI, 150 total bases and 24 home runs, and is batting .341 in 185 at-bats. In total, Wake Forest has six hitters batting over .300 with at least 100 at-bats, who have combined for 304 runs scored, 71 homers, and 346 hits this season.

A Player To Watch From Each of the Other Teams (In Order of Seeding)
*Stats used are from all games played, not conference games only.

Virginia (44-11, 19-11 ACC) – Kyle Teel (.414) and Griff O’Ferrall (.404) were the top two players in the ACC in batting average this season, and tied for the conference lead in hits with 91 apiece. Teel also led the ACC in doubles, and their teammate Jake Gelof led the league in RBI (81) and was second in homers with 22, so it’s hard to pick just one player to watch from Virginia. 

Clemson (39-17, 20-10 ACC) – Junior Caden Grice held opponents to a .199 batting average over 62.1 innings of work for the Tigers this year, while striking out 82. He’s a two-way threat, batting .296 with 14 homers, 54 RBIs, 50 runs scored, and a .408 on-base percentage. He’s a semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.

Miami (37-18, 18-12 ACC) – Yohandy Morales finished third in the ACC with a .395 batting average, got on base at a .467 clip and slugged .649 this year. He hit 13 doubles and 13home runs, scored 48 runs and drove in 53. 

Duke (35-19, 16-13 ACC) – Alex Mooney’s 64 runs scored earned him a tie for fourth among ACC players over the course of the season, and he also managed to swipe 16 bases and knock 17 doubles in 54 games.

Boston College (34-17, 16-14 ACC) – Chris Flynn threw 70.2 innings and posted a 3.02 ERA with a .249 opponent batting average. He allowed 68 hits and 25 walks, striking out 80 during his senior season. 

North Carolina (33-21, 14-14 ACC) – Junior Mac Horvath stole 22 bases in 54 games, scored 65 runs and socked 21 homers this season. He’s the Tar Heels’ biggest offensive threat. 

Notre Dame (30-22, 15-15 ACC) – Aidan Tyrell posted a 2.74 ERA over 15 games for Notre Dame, throwing 65.2 innings, allowing 56 hits and 24 walks – but just 20 of those runners scored earned runs. 

N.C. State (34-18, 13-16 ACC) – Junior Matt Willadsen threw 72.1 innings with a 3.48 ERA, striking out 75 and allowing just 23 walks and 23 earned runs. He held opponents to a .255 batting average this season.

Virginia Tech (30-21, 12-17 ACC) – Jack Hurley’s 17 homers tied him for sixth in the ACC with James Tibbs III of Florida State and Jackson Finely of Georgia Tech. His triple-slash line was .347/.422/.743 in conference play.

Georgia Tech (30-25, 12-18 ACC) –  Jake DeLeo finished the regular season tied for third in hits with 88 and slashed .365/.427.647. His 22 doubles were also good for a tie for third in the ACC.

Pittsburgh (23-30, 10-18 ACC) – Jack Anderson finished the regular season with a .465 OBP, largely on the strength of 54 walks, good for second in the ACC.

Broadcast Info
All games during pool play and both semifinals will be carried on the ACC Network. The championship game on Sunday will be carried live on ESPN2. Each game will air live on Sirius XM ACC Radio channel 371.

ACC Tournament Schedule
All Games at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham, N.C.

Tuesday, May 23
11 a.m. – Virginia Tech vs. Boston College (Pool C)
3 p.m. – Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina (Pool B)
7 p.m. – Duke vs. N.C. State (Pool D)

Wednesday, May 24
11 a.m. – Pittsburgh vs. Notre Dame (Pool A)
3 p.m. – Virginia vs. Georgia Tech (Pool B)
7 p.m. – Clemson vs. Virginia Tech (Pool C)

Thursday, May 25
11 a.m. – Wake Forest vs. Pittsburgh (Pool A)
3 p.m. – North Carolina vs. Virginia (Pool B)
7 p.m. – Miami vs. N.C. State (Pool D)

Friday, May 26
11 a.m. – Boston College vs. Clemson (Pool C)
3 p.m. – Duke vs. Miami (Pool D)
7 p.m. – Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest (Pool A)

Saturday, May 27
1 p.m. – Semifinal 1 – Pool A Winner vs. Pool D Winner 
5 p.m. – Semifinal 2 – Pool B Winner vs. Pool C Winner

Sunday, May 28
Noon – Championship Games – ESPN2