WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wake Forest baseball coach Tom Walter has named sophomore right handed pitcher Griffin Roberts the presumptive closer for the 2017 season.
Roberts finished 0-1 with a 9.19 ERA in his freshman season, but had a standout summer in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
Walter talks about Roberts, and how the Deacs hope to replace the production of Will Craig in the lineup in the final installment of his pre-season interview session.
On who could fill some of the punch lost from the departure of Will Craig
Walter: “Gavin Sheet and Stuart Fairchild in our 3 and 4 hole — I just don’t see how there’s a better 3 and 4 combination that those guys in the country. Stuart is a right-handed hitter who can really run and hits the ball to all fields. He’s got great power. Gavin is a left-handed hitter who can drive the ball out of the ball to all fields. That 3-4 combination is going to be tough for people to get through. Then we have experience around them. Jonathan Pryor is a four-year starter who will sit in our 2-hole. Ben Breazeale is a four-year starter who will bat fifth or sixth. Keegan Maronpot and Bruce Steel are experienced guys. Johnny Aiello is back after a good freshman year and good summer on the Cape (Cape Cod Summer league). Positionally, the one knock on this club is that we’re a little thin positionally. If we have some injuries in certain places, we’d be counting on some freshmen who are just unknowns. On the mound, if the freshmen don’t pitch, it’s okay because we have other guys. Positionally, the freshmen are going to have to play some. Hopefully they won’t have to be everyday players, because I don’t think that — at least for the first month or so — they would be ready for that.”
On if he believes the Deacs will be a stronger, more balanced team this year than they were in 2016
Walter: “I know this team can be better than last year’s and that’s not a knock of that team. We’re better on the mound. Last year, when we got to the NCAA Regionals, when Parker Dunshee was on the mound we were pretty good. After he pitched, we got exposed a little bit by the better teams. This year, we’ll have the pitching to match up against those teams. You need the power pitching — you see it in the Major Leagues and you see it in college baseball. We didn’t have that, and now we do. Not just with the addition of the freshmen, but with the emergence of Rayne Supple and Griffin Roberts. Those two guys in particular have added some depth. They are guys that have really good stuff that we will be able to put heavy workloads on.”
On how Griffin Roberts has improved
Walter: “Griffin pitched pretty well early last year. He pitched well at Coastal Carolina, and when you watched him pitch, looked impressive. He has a fastball up to 95 plus sink. He has a breaking pitch that’s better than Will Craig’s. He’s a guy with two-plus pitches. He’s a good athlete. He hold runners. It’s been a complete 180 from last year, and the summer was really big for him. He had a lot of success this summer, and added 25 pounds of muscle. He’s just a different guy. When you see him pitch, you’re going to see what I’m talking about. He’s got a chance to be one of the best closers in the country.”
On the potential for his team
Walter: “Well, the potential is unlimited. I think we can go really far with this club, and we should go farther than we did last year. We can certainly win a regional and maybe even a super regional. The super regional format is made for this club. You don’t need four starters to win a super regional. You need three, or maybe even two. I like our chances if we get to a super regional of playing against anybody. This is a team that could conceivably host a regional. If we had played a little better early last year, we might have been in consideration for something like that the way we were playing down the stretch. But we played ourselves out of that early. The early part of the year will tell the tale for us, because we’re at Houston, we have USC coming here and we have a Kent State team the next week that’s always good. The first three weekends, we’re going to face clubs who are used to going to regionals and having success. We’re looking forward to that. How we come out of those first three weekends will be crucial as to where we sit in regards to the NCAA in terms of seedings.”
On how close they are to using the new performance facility
Walter: “We’re not using any parts of it yet. We’re hopeful we’ll be there by opening day. I know there are some finishing touches left to go. We’ve got some things that need to be addressed. If not opening day, it will be shortly after that.”