The Wake Forest baseball team is back on track after a 5-0 week. The team finally looks in mid-season form after a rough start to the season. Junior Patrick Frick reiterated that point after the game last Wednesday.
“I feel like it’s midseason; we have been going at it since the fall,” Frick said. “We still think we can make a regional with the rough start.”
The highlight for the Deacons was a walk-off single in the 10th inning to send the UNCG Spartans packing last Wednesday. Associate Head Coach Bill Cilento filled in for Head Coach Tom Walter as he was dealing with a minor illness. The game went into extra innings tied 1-1 when Frick walked off the Deacs with a bases-loaded single.
Before the walk off, the Deacons looked sluggish during the season and the game. Countless errors and lack of situational hitting exhibited a lack of grit. However, a down-to -the-wire win like this can spark a team, especially one struggling to find wins like the Deacons. Senior Jake Mueller realized the game against UNCG could just be what it takes for Wake Forest to get on a run.
“You know sometimes a team who’s on the cusp gets a dramatic win like that, and now we can come in and get hot,” Mueller said.
The Deacons continued that winning atmosphere as they swept the weekend series against Furman. Wake Forest outscored the Paladins 29-10, as they put up double digit runs twice in three games. Wake Forest was in control the whole weekend, as Furman only led once during the entire series.
Wake Forest received a massive addition to the lineup over the Furman series as redshirt senior Bruce Steel made his season debut. The veteran infielder hit his first home run since the 2017 regional in Sundays 11-2 victory over Furman. Steel will bring needed experience in a lineup packed with underclassman. Walter must be looking at Steel to utilize his senior leadership to guide this young squad.
Wake Forest’s stellar pitching also continued. Sophomore Jared Shuster was named ACC Co-Pitcher of the Week and one of the Collegiate Baseball National Players of the Week after his 12-strikeout performance against Furman. The lefty has eclipsed 11 or more strikeouts in each of his three wins. He has solidified a spot at the top of the rotation alongside junior ace Morgan McSweeney. McSweeney had a bounce -back start against Furman, as he allowed no runs on three hits. The bullpen is still being led by lockdown sophomore reliever Antonio Menendez. The Herndon, VA native has been lights out recording an unbelievable 1.32 ERA. Rightfully so, Walter has leaned on Menendez a great deal as he leads the team in seven pitching appearances. His mastery was on full display against UNCG. Menendez pitched three scoreless innings to give his team a chance to win in the 10th. Cilento echoed this sentiment after the game on Wednesday.
“It’s awesome; he’s come a long way,” Cilento said. “Talk about being in total control. I don’t know if there was a ball hit close to the barrel often.”
The week ended on an even better note, as Walter notched his 700th career win. This is his tenth season as Wake Forest’s head coach, leading the Deacons to six winning seasons, two NCAA tournament appearances and one super-regional berth.
Walter and the Deacs open ACC conference play this weekend against Notre Dame. The Deacons are going to see tougher opponents going through the ACC gauntlet. The grace period is over and ACC play is what makes or breaks a season. Friday’s game starts at 6pm at the Couch.