While Stanford was winning their super-regional on a fly ball that got lost in the sun, the number one team in the country, Wake Forest, was waiting to see who they would be playing in the first round of the College World Series. Now the two teams will meet in the first game of the day on Saturday, with a trip to the winner’s bracket on the line. We’ll look at the matchup between the two teams before going over how I’ll be betting on it.
Reaching the CWS has become business as usual for the Stanford Cardinals, as they have become a mainstay in the tournament over the past few years. On the other hand, a Wake Forest baseball team has not played in this event since 1955. Regardless of the history, both teams are here now and loaded with talent on the mound and at the dish.
For starters, the Wake Forest pitching staff has been the best in college baseball this season, and while it is expected that we see their ace Rhett Lowder on the mound in game one, they truly can’t go wrong with any of their starters. If they do go with Lowder, the Cardinals are in for a rough matchup, as the right-hander enters the tournament with a 1.92 ERA and 131 punchouts in 108 innings.
The dominance on the mound doesn’t stop when Lowder leaves the game either, with the Demon Deacons boasting six relievers with at least 13 appearances and a sub-4.00 ERA. Lowder on the hill sets up an intriguing matchup between potential first-round picks in the upcoming draft, with Stanford infielder Tommy Troy on the other side.
Troy comes into the CWS with a .395 average, making him one of six hitters in the Stanford lineup hitting over .285 with double-digit home runs. With a lineup like that, it’s no surprise the Cardinals have scored five or more runs in every game they have played this postseason.
The exciting matchups don’t stop at one, either. Wake Forest’s lineup has three guys with 16 home runs or more while hitting .341 or better. That trio of Nick Kurtz, Brock Wilken, and Justin Johnson is a tough draw for potential Stanford starter Quinn Matthews, fresh off his 156-pitch outing in the super-regional.
Betting on large favorites in college baseball can be dangerous just based on the pure chaotic nature that the sport features. That said, though, I will still be taking Wake Forest in this one but on the run line of (-1.5), priced at (-150). The Demon Deacons are (-250) on the moneyline, and with the well-roundedness of the team, I would prefer to take them at a better price and win by two or more.
The Demon Deacons have a run differential of +59 since the start of regionals, and as impressive as Quinn Matthews was in the supers, Wake Forest still has the edge on the mound with Lowder and their bullpen. I don’t foresee Matthews throwing 156 pitches again, so the Cardinals will likely hand the ball to Ryan Bruno and Drew Dowd after him. The two relievers had good regular seasons, but both have ERA’s of 5.19 or higher this postseason.
Whether it’s Matthews, Bruno, or Dowd, the Cardinals have to face a Wake Forest lineup with three guys with double-digit RBIs since regionals. One of those guys, Pierce Bennett, is hitting .619 in 21 plate appearances. Overall, I think Wake Forest is destined for the winner’s bracket and can get the job done by at least two runs.
Wake Forest (-1.5)(-150)