Wake Forest Men’s Baseball entered its third week of the season struggling to find its footing. By the end of it, the Diamond Deacons emerged markedly stronger, having won four out of five games. After being swept by Long Beach State to fall to 3-4 the previous weekend, the Deacons hosted neighbor App State for a mid-week game.This was a roller coaster game that saw six lead changes. Freshman Adam Cecere hit a grand slam in the fourth inning to take a 6-2 lead. However, it was short-lived, as junior pitcher Antonio Menendez got off to a disappointing start, giving up seven runs in four innings. The Deacons got their chance to win when junior Bobby Seymour scored freshman Parker Pilat on an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth. With a 9-8 lead in the ninth inning, App State rallied back to tie the game on a fielder’s choice, and then took a 11-9 lead on a homerun from junior Andrew Greckel. Wake Forest had an opportunity to win the game in the bottom part of the inning as they had two men on base with no outs, but three consecutive strikeouts drowned those hopes.
Feb. 28’s game against La Salle started a four-game weekend series with three different teams. The weekend would be a testament to the will of the Deacs, as they entered it with a four-game losing streak. Head Coach Tom Walter emphasized their struggles.
“We haven’t been playing great, everybody feels that. We are not stacking quality at-bats together like this team is capable of,” Walter said.
On Feb. 28, sophomore Ryan Cusick tied his career high in strikeouts in the fifth inning, but also gave up a run in the same inning to knot the score at 2-2. Going into the bottom of the eighth, the Deacons were down 4-3, but loaded the bases in a late inning rally. Graduate student William Simoneit took advantage of that opportunity, hitting a grand slam that just edged over the right field wall. The Deacons’ bench went crazy, mobbing Simoneit while the La Salle bench, which had been animated earlier, was left stunned and silent.
On Feb. 29, Wake Forest made quick work of their opponent Brown University in a two-game sweep. The early game was highlighted by a fantastic pitching performance by junior Jared Shuster and a homer by freshman Adam Cecere to break up a 2-2 tie in the sixth. The late game saw another great pitching performance by a Deacon pitcher and a hitting showcase by Cecere. Junior pitcher William Flemming flawlessly pitched eight innings of no-run ball with nine strikeouts. Cecere continued his power breakout with two more home runs including a three-run bomb to open the game up at 7-0.
March 1 was another win for the Deacs against Sacred Heart, as they got off to a quick lead with five runs in the second. This was another multi-homer game for a Deacon, as Shane Muntz hit two moonshots to left field. The Deacons ended with 15 hits in their 9-5 win. Now Wake Forest finally has some momentum and hard won confidence.
“I think we are starting to put the pieces together. We are differently not where we want to be, but after that losing streak I think everyone is locking in,” Simoneit said.
Simonet has been a surprise stud for Wake Forest in a crowded Deacon lineup. The lineup boasts two players on the pre-season Golden Spike Award watch list — juniors Chirs Lanzili and Seymour — but Simoneit has been the most consistent hitter so far. The former Cornell University baseball player is hitting a whopping 0.406 with two home runs and a team-leading ten RBIs. He topped his stellar weekend off on Sunday with a 4-4 game against Sacred Heart to continue his great plate presence. Simoneit and the Deacons will need to continue their winning ways, as ACC play starts the first week in March. The Deacons face a tough test as they host the seventh-ranked University of Louisville for a three-game weekend series.