Chris Lanzilli, Wake Forest (Aaron Fitt)


Fall Report: Wake Forest

Fall Report

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — As a general rule, coaches hate to talk about “bridge years.” They are hard-wired to compete as hard as they can every game, every season; it’s never fun to endure a losing season, even with a very young but very talented roster that offers promise for the future. So even though Wake Forest knew it would take some lumps in 2018 after losing a boatload of mainstays from its 2017 super regional team, coach Tom Walter was dissatisfied with the end result. Given the team’s youth, the suspension of three key seniors — shortstop Bruce Steel, slugger Keegan Maronpot and would-be closer Chris Farish — for most of the season proved to be a crippling blow, and the Demon Deacons fell well short in their bid for a third straight regional appearance.

“I think it’s a disappointment,” Walter said of the season after the Demon Deacons were eliminated from the ACC tournament last May. “I mean, any time you’re 25-31, you’re certainly disappointed in that. That’s not where we think our program is. It’s been ups and downs with everything that happened with our seniors and everything that we’ve gone through, but again, we’ve done some really good things this year … Certainly a lot to look forward to.”

Last season’s disappointment is ancient history now, but the sense of anticipation for the future is stronger than ever. The members of Wake Forest’s super-talented 2017 recruiting class gained invaluable experience as freshmen last spring and now look ready to take a collective leap forward as sophomores. The pitching staff looks like the deepest of Walter’s tenure, headlined by a pair of emerging junior stars. Another strong recruiting class has brought talented reinforcements, and Steel and Maronpot are back as fifth-year seniors, providing a crucial veteran presence.

“We really like our club,” Walter said after Wake’s final fall scrimmage last Friday. “We really have 13 or 14 good offensive pieces with this team, and we’ve got some depth, and we’ve got a good mix of speed and power, so I feel like we’re gonna have a really good offensive club. … Last year we were so young, and now we’re kinda veteran.”

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