Tom Walter & Johnny Aiello, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have enjoyed tremendous success over the past two seasons. In 2016 Wake Forest earned its first regional appearance in eight years and then posted a 43-20 mark in 2017 to reach a super regional for the first time since 1999 before falling to eventual national champion Florida in a hard-fought series. Head coach Tom Walter has done an amazing job of building a winner in his nine years in Winston-Salem. That includes last year’s opening of the new $14 million player development facility at David F. Couch Ballpark, which has received constant improvements since Walter’s arrival.

Walter’s teams have a reputation for being able to hit the ball with authority. The Wake Forest Demon Deacons posted a team batting average of .308 last year while stroking 129 doubles and 106 home runs. Several of the big bashers, such as Gavin Sheets, Stuart Fairchild, and Ben Breazeale, have advanced to the next level but there should be plenty of firepower in the lineup. Wake will be counting on a pair of returning All-ACC players–junior third baseman Johnny Aiello (.328/.417/.643) and junior second baseman Jake Mueller (.345/.413/.430)–to lead the charge. Aiello is coming off a 2017 performance in which he had 17 doubles and 20 home runs with 53 RBIs despite striking out 76 times. Mueller contributed 16 doubles and 34 RBIs. Three other starters also return. Redshirt junior shortstop Bruce Steel (.264/.383/.533) went deep 13 times with 38 RBIs, senior right fielder Keegan Maronpot (.214/.318/.409) hit a dozen round-trippers, and junior catcher Logan Harvey (.263/.386/.362) is another multi-year starter who scored 43 runs in 2017. The strong freshman class will also contribute, including infielders Bobby Seymour and DJ Poteet, outfielders Michael Ludowig and Chris Lanzilli, and catcher Shane Muntz.

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons pitching staff could be better than last year’s corps, thanks in part to the return of four of the team’s top eight hurlers from a season ago. Junior righthander Griffin Roberts (2-5, 2.19 ERA) had 80 strikeouts in 53.1 innings and eight saves in 2017 but is projected to make the move to the weekend rotation. Sophomore lefthander Carter Bach (2-0, 3.26 ERA) displayed tremendous progress over the offseason and is projected to pitch on Saturdays or Sundays. Walter is also expecting continued success from sophomore right-handed relievers Colin Peluse (5-1, 3.54 ERA) and Morgan McSweeney (5-1, 3.50 ERA). Redshirt senior righthander Chris Farish (5.89 ERA) is projected to be the Deacons’ closer. Among the freshmen that could see extended activity include Antonio Menendez and Jared Shuster.

About the author, Bill

Bill Ballew has been involved with collegiate and professional baseball since 1983. He has been the Atlanta correspondent for Baseball America since 1991 and has served as the editorial content manager for Baseball The Magazine for more than five years. He is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).