Baseball leads off season with 3-0 sweep

The weekend included victories over Lafayette, Georgetown and VCU


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Sophomore Pierce Bennett went 3-3 in the fifth inning against Lafayette.

Essex Thayer, Sports Editor

After a disappointing losing season in 2021, Wake Forest baseball returned to David F. Couch Ballpark with a chip on their shoulder. By the end of the weekend, the Demon Deacons were 3-0 for the first time since 2016. 

Against Lafayette on Friday, a program-record tying 16-run inning pushed the Demon Deacons to a 25-3 victory. The following day, a strong, five-inning debut from freshman pitcher Josh Hartle led Wake Forest to a 9-1 win over Georgetown. On Sunday, the Demon Deacons’ bats allowed them to climb back against VCU, a team that made the NCAA Tournament last season.

On Friday, starting pitchers Rhett Lowder for Wake Forest and Luke Benneche for Lafayette dueled for the first two innings and didn’t surrender a run. In the third inning, however, sophomore Lucas Costello drove in redshirt sophomore Pierce Bennett to give Wake Forest a 1-0 lead.

The real damage was done in Friday’s fifth ending. After loading the bases, Benneche walked two straight batters, bringing in two runs. Redshirt sophomore Adam Cecere then brought home Costello with a single, and a walk on the next at-bat extended the lead to 5-0. After that, Benneche’s night was over.

Later in the inning, Bennett hit the first home run of the season for the Demon Deacons — a grand slam — to give Wake Forest an 11-0 lead. A three-run home run later in the inning by sophomore Brock Wilken gave the Demon Deacons even more cushion. 

Despite three runs being tagged on by Lafayette in the sixth inning – all against graduate Jacob Grzebinski – Wake Forest added eight more runs in their half of the sixth. Leading 25-3, closer Reed Mascolo finished the game off in the seventh inning, with both coaches deciding to end the game early.

After the game, Wake Forest Head Coach Tom Walter was pleased with the five-inning shutout from Lowder.

“I think Lowder threw the ball really well tonight,” Walter said. “Lafayette came out aggressive early but Rhett did a great job getting ahead in counts early.”

On offense, the performance of the night came from Bennett, who went 3-3 in the fifth inning alone on the way to a five-RBI game.

The next day, Wake Forest relied on their pitching to bring them the victory. After a five-inning, one-run performance by Hartle, the Demon Deacons closed out the final four innings with scoreless performances by redshirt sophomore Derek Crum, redshirt freshman Will Andrews and sophomore Camden Minacci. The bullpen combined for 12 strikeouts while only allowing one walk.

After throwing 30 pitches in a scoreless first inning, Hartle settled down for a comfortable second, keeping the score tied at zero. 

From there, Wake Forest took off in the bottom of the second, scoring three runs off a double by freshman Nick Kurtz and a single by sophomore Jake Reinisch. 

In the third inning, the Demon Deacons scored off another single by Reinisch, bringing in Kurtz and redshirt junior Brandon Tinsman to bring the lead to 5-0. Looking to extend the lead in the fourth inning, Wake Forest added three additional runs with the help of Wilken, Cecere and freshman Danny Corona. 

Following a fifth-inning single to bring in Georgetown’s first run of the day, Hartle shut the door for the rest of the inning to end his day in good position for his first collegiate win. 

From there, the bullpen delivered another scoreless performance, and a final eighth inning run allowed the Demon Deacons to coast to the 9-1 victory. 

In their final game of the weekend, Wake Forest was tested against a strong VCU team, yet was able to find a way to pull out the victory. With sophomore Teddy McGraw on the mound, the Demon Deacons once again began the game with two scoreless innings. 

In the third inning, Wake Forest put two runs on the scoreboard with home runs by Reinisch and Kurtz. In the fourth and fifth innings, the Rams responded, scoring four runs. In both innings, McGraw was able to stop the bleeding by working around several baserunners. 

In the fifth inning, a sacrifice fly by Turconi brought Wake Forest within one. Two home runs by Cecere (two-run in the sixth, solo in the eighth) allowed Wake Forest to take a two-run lead. 

After McGraw provided six quality innings with four earned runs, the Wake Forest bullpen once again came in clutch. Redshirt junior Brennen Oxford pitched one hitless inning, while redshirt sophomore Eric Adler closed the game with two scoreless innings. 

“Brennen Oxford was awesome and Eric Adler was darn-near unhittable at times tonight,” Walter said of the bullpen’s shutdown performance after the game. 

Despite what he called a “good team win,” Walter did find parts of the Demon Deacons’ game that needed work. 

“We did not stack enough quality at-bats,” Walter said. “We cannot rely on the home run for offense every game. We were clutch in some moments, [but] we need to be able to punch runs across in other ways and we did not do that today.” 

After a fantastic start to the season, Wake Forest will now look to continue their winning ways in a weekend series at home against New Jersey Tech.