Wake Forest stumbles in opening game against UConn

‘Rake Forest’ came alive for four runs in the eighth inning, but lost the game in the ninth


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Graduate student Gabe Golob comes into the game after starter Rhett Lowder gives up five runs.

Essex Thayer, Sports Editor

On Friday, Wake Forest baseball fell to Connecticut 8-7 after a comeback bid fell short. 

When all seemed lost, Wake Forest never quit, but neither did Connecticut. After a four-run eighth inning from the Demon Deacons to tie a game that once seemed a certain loss, the Huskies secured a ninth-inning run, sending them to the winner’s bracket. Now, Wake Forest is one loss away from elimination. 

Wake Forest will face the loser of tonight’s match between Maryland and Long Island.

“We’ll be ready tomorrow,” Wake Forest Head Coach Tom Walter said after the game. “We’ve had our backs against the wall all year … and these guys have responded every time. It’s a win or go home mentality, and I know we’ll be ready.”

After a three-up, three-down first inning for sophomore starting pitcher Rhett Lowder, the Demon Deacons’ bats warmed up early. With two outs and freshman right fielder Tommy Hawke on second base, fellow freshman and first baseman Nick Kurtz hit a single to right field, putting the game’s first run on the scoreboard.

In the top of the third inning, though, the Huskies struck back. With third baseman Zach Bushling on second base, second baseman David Smith brought him home on a single to left field. Lowder was able to get through the inning with the score tied.

After allowing the first run of the game in the first inning, Connecticut starting pitcher Jake Peterson buckled down, holding Wake Forest scoreless for several innings. That came to an end in the bottom of the fourth, with the Demon Deacons reclaiming the lead on an RBI single from sophomore designated hitter Jake Reinisch.

Similarly, and even more so than his opponent, Lowder lost his control of the game in the top of the fifth. After allowing a two-run home run to give UConn its first lead of the game, Lowder allowed a run on a wild pitch and then an additional score on a single. In just a matter of minutes, Wake Forest went from leading by a run to trailing by three.

In the top of the seventh, Lowder’s issues continued, as he allowed a two-run home run to right fielder Casey Dana, extending the Huskies’ lead to five runs. In relief of Lowder, graduate Gabe Golob retired the final two batters of the inning without incident.

In the bottom half of the inning, though, Wake Forest appeared to begin one of their trademark explosive innings. With one out, sophomore pinch-hitter Lucas Costello knocked a solo home run to left field, bringing the Demon Deacons within four runs. Then, Hawke reached base. But that newfound momentum fell apart on a double play.

One inning later, in the bottom of the eighth, Wake Forest’s bats finally had their electrifying inning after an electrifying, home-run robbing catch by Costello. With two runners on base, Kurtz grounded out to first base, making the score 7-4. On the next at-bat, a single by third baseman Brock Wilken brought home another run. 7-5. Then, redshirt sophomore and left fielder Adam Cecere came to bat. Trailing by two runs, Cecere hit a rocket to center field for a two-run, game-tying home run. With three swings, Wake Forest went from all seeming lost to being right back in the game.

After giving up a large lead, the Huskies did not falter. In the next half inning, a fielding error and then  a double that was almost caught by Costello in center field gave Connecticut the 8-7 lead

“Off the bat, I thought it was a play we would make,” Walter said of the run scored. “That’s baseball, but I feel like that was a play [Costello] probably feels like he should make.”

With three at-bats to tie or win in the bottom of the ninth, redshirt junior Michael Turconi almost gave Wake Forest what they needed with fly ball that just nearly stayed in the park. One out later, the Demon Deacons had lost.

“I like our chances to win from here on out,” Walter said. “We’re going to have our hands full tomorrow, but we’ll be ready. [The Demon Deacons ] will come out ready to play tomorrow, I have no doubt.”

With the loss, Wake Forest will now move to the loser’s bracket, where they will play the loser of Maryland and LIU tomorrow afternoon. Another loss will bounce the Demon Deacons from their first NCAA Tournament since 2017.