Baseball sweeps weekend series with NJIT

The team’s 8-0 start is the best in program history since 1964

Sophomore+Rhett+Lowder+allowed+only+one+run+in+6.1+innings+pitched.

Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Sophomore Rhett Lowder allowed only one run in 6.1 innings pitched.

Essex Thayer, Sports Editor

 Following a victory over UNC Greensboro in a mid-week contest, Wake Forest baseball swept New Jersey Tech — a 2021 NCAA Tournament team — in a four-game, weekend series. The wins moved the Demon Deacons to 8-0 for the first time since 1964.

In their mid-week contest, Wake Forest’s three six-run innings — the first, third and sixth — led them to a comfortable 23-3 win over the Spartans. In the opening game of the weekend series, the Demon Deacons fended off a Highlander comeback attempt by scoring six runs in the seventh inning; they won 16-5. 

Josh Hartle led Wake Forest with a 6.2 inning, no earned run performance in the opening game of the Saturday doubleheader, allowing the team to coast to a 9-2 win. In the second game of the doubleheader, though, the Demon Deacons had to mount a comeback for the first time all season, scoring seven runs in the final two innings to win 8-5. In the closing game of the week, Wake Forest knocked three home runs, leading to an 11-5 victory.

On Wednesday against UNCG, Wake Forest opened the game with three home runs — one each by sophomore Brock Wilken, redshirt sophomore Adam Cecere and freshman Danny Corona — in the first inning to build a 6-0 lead. Following a solo home run by redshirt junior Michael Turconi in the second inning, the Demon Deacons tacked on six more runs in the third led by RBIs from Wilkin, Cecere and redshirt junior Brandon Tinsman.

With the game well in hand, sophomores Lucas Costello and Mark Black added late-game grand slams for the Demon Deacons, extending their lead to nearly 20 runs and allowing them to coast to a comfortable win.

Starting pitcher Seth Keener earned the win despite only pitching two innings, which enabled him to pitch in the four-game weekend series. The bullpen closed out the final seven innings, only giving up four hits and one run.

In the series opening game against New Jersey Tech on Friday, Wake Forest showcased its prolific offense in a six-run second inning, led by a grand slam from Costello, his second in two games. In the fourth inning, the Demon Deacons added four additional runs with hits by Wilken, Cecere and sophomore Jake Reinisch.

The Highlanders did not score their first run until the top of the seventh inning, when they knocked Wake Forest starting pitcher Rhett Lowder with two runs (one earned). During the rest of the inning, New Jersey Tech brought in another three runs against graduate relief pitcher Jacob Grzebinski to cut the Demon Deacons’ lead to five runs.

Wake Forest responded in the next half inning, scoring six runs in the bottom of the seventh. Two walks with loaded bases began the scoring spree, while a two-RBI single by graduate infielder Zach Sehgal gave the Demon Deacons a 16-5 lead, which became the final score.

For Wake Forest Head Coach Tom Walter, there was much to be pleased with, including the 1.2 hitless innings to close the game from redshirt sophomore Reed Mascolo.

“The best thing I saw tonight was Reed,” Walter said. “That’s the best I’ve seen him throw in a long time.”

In the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, Wake Forest rode a strong offensive start along with a solid pitching performance by Hartle to victory. The Demon Deacons brought in four runs in the first two innings with RBI singles by Cecere, who hit two, Corona and Wilken. 

After two Highlander runs were scored in the top of the fourth inning, Wake Forest responded in the bottom half with Turconi knocking in two runs with a triple to left field. Two sacrifice outs brought in two additional runs, leading the Demon Deacons to a comfortable 9-2 victory. 

Hartle’s performance — two runs, none earned in 6.2 innings — gives him a 0.77 season ERA two games into his career in Winston-Salem.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Wake Forest went right back to their offense in the first inning, with Cecere hitting a sacrifice fly to right field to bring in the first run of the game. However, the Demon Deacons would not score another run until the seventh inning.

Between the third and sixth innings, New Jersey Tech scored four runs, including a solo home run by Nick Hussey that knocked starting pitcher Teddy McGraw out of the game. Wake Forest recovered, though, with sophomore Camden Minacci pitching 1.1 hitless innings in relief.

On offense, the Demon Deacons responded in the bottom of the seventh, with Reinisch hitting a two-run home run to cut the deficit to one. Then, the Highlanders walked two straight batters with the bases loaded to give Wake Forest the lead. To extend their newfound lead, redshirt sophomore Pierce Bennett hit a sacrifice fly to center field.

With redshirt sophomore Eric Adler pitching, Hussey hit an RBI double to bring the Highlanders within one run, but in the next half inning, a two-run home run from freshman Nick Kurtz extended Wake Forest’s lead to three. From there, Adler closed the game with a three-up, three-down ninth inning.

In the final game of the series, it was New Jersey Tech that got on the board first with a solo home run by Julio Marcano. In the third inning, though, a solo home run from Reinisch and a two-run home run by Turconi gave Wake Forest its first lead of the day. In response to another Highlander run in the fourth, the Demon Deacons tacked on seven runs between the fourth and seventh innings, highlighted by a home run hit by Tinsman. From there, Wake Forest was able to close out the win.

“Winning a doubleheader is hard to do in college baseball,” Walter said after the game. “I am really happy with the way we battled back in that second game. More than anything, I am happy that our guys did not rest on the fact that we already won two games and they believed they were going to win.”

Despite their victories, the Demon Deacons have yet to be ranked in the Baseball America Top 25. The team will look to continue their undefeated start to the season with a mid-week game against Elon and a weekend set against UMass Lowell and Central Michigan.