Wake Forest drops series against Clemson

Sophomore Rhett Lowder pitched eight scoreless innings in Friday’s 1-0 loss

Redshirt junior Michael Turconi celebrates with his teammates at home plate after hitting a walk-off home run in Saturday’s extra-inning victory.

Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Redshirt junior Michael Turconi celebrates with his teammates at home plate after hitting a walk-off home run in Saturday’s extra-inning victory.

Essex Thayer, Sports Editor

Wake Forest’s hopes of achieving an NCAA ranking took a hit this past weekend. The Demon Deacons dropped a home series against Clemson, only winning one of the three matchups.

Friday — a 1-0 Clemson victory — was a pitcher’s duel, as Wake Forest starter Rhett Lowder threw eight scoreless innings, only allowing three hits. Clemson starting pitcher Mack Anglin also did not give up a run in his six-inning effort. 

In the middle game of the series, both teams found their stride on offense. Freshman Tommy Hawke led the Demon Deacons with three hits. Redshirt junior Michael Turconi’s sole hit of the game — a three-run home run — proved to be the most important, giving Wake Forest the 12-9 win in extra innings.

On Sunday, Wake Forest missed out on an opportunity to win the series, losing 10-8. Sophomore starting pitcher Teddy McGraw drew the loss, allowing six runs in six innings. Despite the loss, freshman Nick Kurtz had a career day, hitting two home runs and a double in four at-bats.

After eight scoreless innings pitched by Lowder on Friday, Wake Forest brought in sophomore closing pitcher Camden Minacci to keep the score tied at zero. After two singles to open the inning, Minacci hit the next batter, loading the bases. Later in the inning, the Tigers took advantage with a sacrifice fly, but Minacci was able to work his way through the rest of the inning with only one run allowed.

After Turconi was hit by a pitch to begin the bottom of the nine, Geoffrey Gilbert retired the next three batters to secure the win.

“Tonight was a disappointing loss,” Wake Forest Head Coach Tom Walter said after the game. “We have to find a way to score and get Rhett that win.”

After being the only team to score on Friday, Clemson opened the scoring on Saturday in the first inning. With a runner on second, a single past third base brought home the Tigers’ only run of the inning.

In the bottom half of the inning, though, Wake Forest’s bats caught fire. After Tigers’ starting pitcher Jay Dill walked the bases loaded to open the inning, redshirt junior Brendan Tinsman hit a grand slam to right field, giving the Demon Deacons a 4-1 lead. Later in the inning, with one out and two runners on base, Dill allowed another home run to graduate Kyle Joye, this time for three runs. With that, Dill’s day was done one out into the game. Wake Forest did not score another run in the inning.

After allowing an RBI single in the top of the second inning, Wake Forest starting pitcher Rhett Lowder did not give up another run for the following two innings. In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Demon Deacons extended their lead to seven runs, with redshirt sophomore Pierce Bennett knocking in a run on a single to right field and freshman Danny Corona hitting a sacrifice fly.

In the next half inning, the Tigers clawed back with two runs of their own. With two runners on base, Clemson scored their first run of the inning on a single. Then, a fielder’s choice saw another runner reach home.

Neither team scored again until the eighth inning. With the bases loaded, Clemson scored all baserunners on a triple to center field, reducing the Demon Deacons’ lead to two. In the next at-bat, Clemson scored again to get within one run.

In the ninth inning, with a one-run lead, Wake Forest brought Minacci in again to close the game. But, similar to the previous evening, the sophomore allowed a run on a single to center field, forcing the game into extra innings.

Minacci made up for his errors by not allowing a run in the tenth inning. In the bottom of the inning, Clemson walked two of Wake Forest’s first three batters. Then, with two outs, Turconi gave the Demon Deacons the win with a deep shot to right field, marking the first walk-off win for the program since 2020.

After the game, Walter expressed his pleasure with not only the win, but also the crowd the Demon Deacons played in front of. An attendance of 2,227 fans was the second-largest in program history and helped Wake Forest eclipse their previous single-season attendance record.

“Today was a great day at the park,” Walter said. “We had a really great home crowd that was into the game. They were fired up and stayed until the end.”

On Sunday, Wake Forest was the team to score first, doing so in the bottom of the first inning. With Hawke on second, sophomore Brock Wilken doubled to center field to bring home the freshman and give the Demon Deacons the lead. Then, Kurtz homered to extend the lead to three.

In the next half inning, Clemson responded with two runs, scoring on two separate solo home runs off starting pitcher Teddy McGraw. In the third inning, the Tigers tied the game on a sacrifice bunt.

The score remained tied until the bottom of the fourth inning, with Kurtz’s second solo home run giving the Demon Deacons the lead once again. The Tigers did not score until the sixth inning, when a two-run home run allowed them to take their first lead of the day.

In the top of the seventh, Clemson began to put the game out of reach. With runners on the corners, the Tigers hit their fourth home run of the day. Then, two batters later, the team knocked another home run, giving them a 10-4 lead.

Despite the large deficit, the Demon Deacons did not back down. With two outs to open the bottom half of the inning, Tinsman hit a solo home run. Then, with a runner on second base, Bennett hit an RBI double. In the next at-bat, Reinisch knocked a two-run home run. In the span of four at-bats, Wake Forest had reduced Clemson’s lead to two.

Despite the prolific scoring in the seventh, the Demon Deacons did not score another run in the inning. From there, Clemson closed the door on Wake Forest’s hopes of a comeback, not allowing another hit for the rest of the game.

After the series loss, Wake Forest still remains the No. 3 team in the Atlantic Division with a 10-8 conference record. With a 27-9 record and No. 15 RPI grade, the Demon Deacons were left unranked in any major poll, although they were listed as the No. 2 team in the receiving votes section of the USA Today Coaches Poll. The team will look to change that this weekend when they are set to meet Notre Dame in South Bend.