Wake Forest baseball is off and running after wrapping up three games at David F. Couch Stadium this weekend. The No. 20 team in the country led off the season with the biggest opening day winner since 2003 by beating the Sacred Heart Pioneers 14-1. Saturday saw the Deacs fall to Illinois 5-2 but rebound Sunday with a 5-3 win against Georgetown.
Throughout the weekend, the Deacs were led by outstanding starting pitching. Wake Forest junior ace Morgan McSweeney was the lights-out starter for opening day. The Pioneers were dumbfounded at the plate as the righty fanned seven batters allowing only two hits over 6.6 innings. The Hudson, Mass. native consistently hit 94 MPH with his fastball through six innings with excellent command. McSweeney’s outing gave the Deacon hitters a sense of confidence as well.
“The team pitched well, we all went off [McSweeney],”sophomore first baseman Bobby Seymour said. “I mean [McSweeney] started off pitching how he did made, it makes hitting a lot easier.”
The great starting pitching didn’t end there. Junior Colin Peluse put up six quality innings of only one-run ball during the loss against Illinois. Sunday saw more of the same. Sophomore Jared Shuster struck out 11 Hoyas on his way to the win.
The Deacon offense had its highs and lows. The 14-run first game set a high standard for the season. Sophomore first baseman Bobby Seymour led the Deacs that night with five RBIs while freshman Michael Turconi added three RBIs on two hits. Seymour’s bases-clearing double in the second opened up the game as the Deacons rolled the Pioneers. Sophomore Shane Muntz is having an unbelievable start to the season for the Deacon offense. Opposing pitchers have not found an answer to keep the big righty off the bases, as he is doing anything necessary to spark the offense.
Besides a few key contributors, the bats fell a little short at times. The offense had a hard time hitting on Saturday, as Illinois redshirt senior pitcher Andy Fisher kept the Deac bats at bay. The Diamond Deacons put up five runs against Georgetown; however, the only two runs were on a hit that was a lone fielding miscue by the center fielder. Coach Tom Walter acknowledged some frustration about the lack of situational hitting.
“I liked the fact we got a win, I liked the fact that Jared Shuster threw the ball really well and I like the fact that Tony came in there in the ninth and threw the ball well, [but I] wasn’t really pleased about anything in between that,” said coach Tom Walter. “The top two guys aren’t getting on base … They are pressing a little bit.”
Walter may be frustrated a little about the bats, but he knows the season is not defined by one weekend. He illustrated that the next step for the Deacon offense is just to get back to work Monday. Walter knows it will be a long season and that the offense should relax at the plate.
“A good practice on Monday that’s all it is and just back to their approach,” Walter said. “We’re a talented club. We don’t need to play over our heads to win, we just need to play normal … it’s a 200 at bat season, not a 12 at bat season.”
The Deacs look for continued success as they try to find their stride. This team is young, and it may take a few games to hit the high standard this team has set for themselves. Tougher opponents coming up will exhibit if this team is capable of big things. The Deacons have the skill on paper to beat anyone in the country, but it is a matter of hard work and determination. Sophomore pitcher Jared Shuster echoed that message after the game on Sunday.
“We feel good, we’re going to keep working, and if we play our game, we know we can beat anyone in the country, so we have to stay within ourselves and keep playing well,” said Shuster.
The Deacons lost to Liberty University in their first away game on Tuesday. The Deacs play at Elon on Friday before returning home for a weekend series vs Quinnipiac and a game against Elon on Sunday.