Baseball takes two of three from No. 12 Louisville

The series win bolsters the Demon Deacons’ lead in the Atlantic Division


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Wake Forest celebrates a home run in the series opener against Louisville.

Avikar Khakh, Staff Writer

In a significant three-game set against No. 12 Louisville (26-9, 8-7), No. 2 Wake Forest (31-5, 14-3) won the series 2-1 on the back of power-hitting and dominant pitching — again. 

In the first game of the series, Wake Forest started with sophomore Sean Sullivan (5-1) on the mound and looked to face Louisville senior Ryan Hawks (5-2). The Cardinals got off to a swift start with sophomore Eddie King Jr. hitting an RBI single to left field, scoring junior Christian Knapczyk. However, the Demon Deacons responded in the third inning with arguably their most dominant offensive inning of the entire season. 

With junior Lucas Costello and sophomore Tommy Hawke on base, junior Brock Wilken got the scoring started when he hit a deep home run to left field, making it 3-1. Right after Wilken, junior Pierce Bennett hit a home run, and then, in the very next at-bat, junior Justin Johnson hit a home run, giving the Demon Deacons a 5-1 lead. With back-to-back-to-back home runs, Wake Forest took a dominant lead and extended it even more in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded, Johnson hit a no-doubt grand slam to left field, scoring Bennett, Costello and Hawke. 

The Cardinals responded with a run in the fourth inning, which led to junior Seth Keener (5-0) taking over the mound from Sullivan, who finished his day with three innings pitched, five hits allowed and three strikeouts. Louisville was able to score another run after the Demon Deacon pitching change, making it 9-3 Wake Forest. Despite the two Cardinal runs in the fourth inning, the Demon Deacons answered right back as Hawke hit a home run down the right-field line, scoring freshman Marek Houston. 

Louisville, unable to mount a comeback, only scored two more runs for the rest of the game. Keener continued his dominant outing up until the last out of the game, where sophomore Derek Crum came in to wrap up the game as he earned the final out. Keener finished his lights-out performance with five innings pitched, one hit allowed and six strikeouts. 

Pitcher Rhett Lowder (No. 4) greets catcher Bennett Lee (No. 27) after finishing an inning. (Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics)

For the second matchup of the series, Wake Forest had junior ace Rhett Lowder (7-0) on the mound and looked to face Louisville’s junior Riley Phillips (4-1). This game provided much less offense compared to the first game, however, the Demon Deacons continued their home run heroics with junior Bennett Lee hitting one to center field in the third inning to give his team the 1-0 lead. Johnson hit a home run of his own in the fourth inning, making it 2-0. In the fifth inning, the Demon Deacons were able to load up the bases for Johnson, who was eventually hit by a pitch, which scored Hawke and gave Wake Forest the 3-0 lead.  

Even though the Demon Deacon offense continued to score runs consistently, the story of this game was ace Rhett Lowder showing off his dominance as he shut out the Cardinals, allowing not a single run. Lowder, who was named ACC Pitcher of the Week, finished his day with seven innings pitched, five hits allowed and an impressive nine strikeouts, improving his season record to 7-0 along with a 1.43 ERA. Sophomore Michael Massey took over the mound in the eighth inning from Lowder and put up a quick three-up, three-down inning. Then, junior Camden Minacci closed the game in the ninth inning, eventually giving Wake Forest the 3-0 win along with securing the series win. 

The Demon Deacons looked toward going for the series sweep in the final game of the three-game set, however, they came up short after facing a dominant offensive performance from the Cardinals. Sophomore Josh Hartle (6-1) started on the mound for Wake Forest and looked to go head-to-head with Louisville’s starter, sophomore Carson Liggett (6-0). 

The Demon Deacons wasted no time in this game, with Bennett hitting an RBI single in the first inning, scoring Costello and giving the Demon Deacons the 1-0 lead. In the sixth inning, Lee hit his second home run of the series to center field, making it 2-0 in favor of the Demon Deacons. However, the Cardinals responded strongly in the bottom half of the sixth inning with a three-run homer, giving them the 3-2 lead. 

As a result, Wake Forest’s Cole Rolland (1-0) came in to take over the mound from Hartle, who finished his day with five innings pitched, five hits allowed and four strikeouts. Despite the pitching change, Louisville scored two more runs after back-to-back hits on Roland’s pitches, extending their lead to 5-2. The Cardinals were not done scoring, as they piled on two more runs in the seventh inning, making it 7-2. After the seventh inning, the two sides traded zeroes, sealing the Louisville victory. 

Regardless of losing the final game of the three-game series, the Demon Deacons did what they needed to as they won the series 2-1 against a competitive opponent in the Cardinals.

 Wake Forest will now look forward to playing in a mid-week matchup against Liberty, at David F. Couch Ballpark on Wednesday. At the end of the week, the Demon Deacons will go on the road to face in-conference opponent Pittsburgh in a three-game series, which is planned to begin on Friday, April 21.