Wake Forest falls to NC State, awaits NCAA Tournament decision

The 11-8 loss effectively eliminates Wake Forest from the elimination rounds of the ACC Tournament


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Seth Keener, who started the game for the Demon Deacons, received a no-decision in the loss.

Essex Thayer, Sports Editor

After sweeping NC State last week in a make-or-break series, Wake Forest fell to the Wolfpack in their first game of the ACC Tournament on Tuesday, effectively ending their quest for the conference crown. 

Due to the rankings advantage within the tournament’s rules, the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between NC State and Miami will move on to the elimination rounds, making Wake Forest’s Friday game against the Hurricanes only for bragging rights.

Seth Keener, the sophomore mid-week starter for the Demon Deacons, got the nod to start the game, giving rest to the traditional weekend pitching group of ACC Pitcher of the Year Rhett Lowder, Josh Hartle and Teddy McGraw. Head Coach Tom Walter was not on the bench due to illness and handed over coaching duties to Associate Head Coach Bill Cilento.

Following a scoreless inning to start the game from Keener, Wake Forest loaded the bases with their first three batters. NC State starter Justin Lawson induced a double play from redshirt junior Brendan Tinsman and a fly out from freshman Nick Kurtz to hold the Demon Deacons to just one run.

Keener retired his first eight batters, and the 1-0 scoreline held until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Wake Forest struck again. With Tinsman and Kurtz on base, sophomore Brock Wilken drove the ball past third base, bringing in a run. Then, with two outs, freshman Danny Corona knocked in two more runs with a double to right field.

Trailing by four, the Wolfpack put runs on the board for the first time in its last 13 innings against the Demon Deacons and did so in resounding fashion. With two outs and two runners on base, Jacob Cozart doubled down the right-field line, clearing the bases for two runs and sending Keener to the dugout in favor of sophomore reliever Crawford Wade. After allowing two men on base, Wade intentionally walked the bases loaded and was relieved by graduate Gabe Golob. In relief, Golob allowed a two-RBI double to center field and walked in a run before being able to close out the inning. By that time, NC State had come alive for the first time in a week and now led the Demon Deacons 6-4.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Wake Forest came within a run on a single by sophomore Jake Reinisch, but the Wolfpack extended its lead even further in the next half inning.

After redshirt sophomore Reed Mascolo allowed a solo home run and a walk, sophomore closer Camden Minacci was summoned in one of his earliest appearances of the season. The premature entrance for Minacci saw him giving up a triple and two home runs and NC State sprinting away with an 11-5 lead.

Regardless, the Demon Deacons did not quit just yet. With redshirt junior Michael Turconi on second base, Kurtz brought him home with an RBI double to left field. Then, on the next at-bat, Wilken launched a two-run home run to right field to reduce NC State’s lead to 11-8.

Those runs proved to be the last for either team, allowing the Wolfpack to avenge their three losses from the weekend with the win and give themselves a chance to bolster their resumé for a potential NCAA Tournament bid.

Unlike the Wolfpack, the media presents a far better picture for the Demon Deacons in their hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017. As of May 22 and 24 respectively, D1Baseball and Baseball America both have listed Wake Forest as a No. 2 seed in the Tennessee region, effectively ranking them somewhere between No. 17 and No. 32 in the nation. Along with that, the RPI rankings have the Demon Deacons listed at the No. 16 team in the country.

Based on statistics since 2013 released on Twitter by Demon Deacon Digest’s Griffin Lamphier, the only ACC team with 15 conference wins to not make the tournament was Wake Forest in 2014, when the team had an RPI of 69. With an RPI that is more along the lines of a team that should be fighting to host a regional, the Demon Deacons can have far more confidence in receiving a bid, but nothing is ever for sure.

For now, Wake Forest will prepare for a moot game against Miami, where Walter may not choose to send out his best lineup. Then, the team will wait for Monday, where the decision on their tournament hopes awaits.