Baseball rallies to take series from Pitt

After being shutout in game one, the Demon Deacons score 40 runs


Courtesy of WFU Athletics

Bennett Lee (No. 27) celebrates with his teammates during a game against Pitt.

Avikar Khakh, Staff Writer

In another three-game set against an in-conference opponent, No. 2 Wake Forest (34-6, 16-4) took care of Pittsburgh (17-21, 8-11) on the road this past weekend, winning the series two games to one. 

In the first of the three games, the Demon Deacons started sophomore Sean Sullivan (5-2) on the mound and went up against the Panthers’ junior Jack Sokol (5-2). Sophomore Jayden Melendez put Pittsburgh on the board in the first inning, taking Sullivan deep to right field for a solo home run. The Panthers then added to their lead in the second inning after another solo home run, this time by junior Justin Acal, making it 2-0. The Demon Deacons, unable to respond, eventually gave up another run, as in the fourth inning junior CJ Funk scored through a fielder’s choice, making it 3-0 Panthers. 

After a difficult fourth inning for Sullivan, he was pulled from the game and junior Seth Keener was put in charge of the mound. Sullivan left the game with three innings pitched, four hits allowed and three strikeouts. 

After pitching three innings, Keener gave up zero runs, only two hits and earned three strikeouts in his outing. Ultimately, he was replaced in the eighth inning by freshman Chase Walter. The Demon Deacons continued their struggles at the plate throughout the game and were incapable of creating a rally to come back. The final score of the first matchup was in favor of the Panthers as they shut out Wake Forest to win 3-0.

The offensive woes would not follow the Demon Deacons into the next two games. 

In the second matchup of the three-game series, the Demon Deacons looked to junior ace Rhett Lowder (8-0) on the mound to get them back to their winning ways. The Panthers, looking to win the series, started junior Logan Evans (2-2). 

Unlike game one, Wake Forest got off to a scorching start, scoring three runs in the first inning. Sophomore Tommy Hawke scored on a Pittsburgh error, and juniors Pierce Bennett and Brock Wilkens scored on a triple from Justin Johnson. The Demon Deacons added to their lead in the next inning with a double by sophomore Nick Kurtz, who scored juniors Lucas Costello and Adam Cecere. Later in the second inning, Johnson was at the plate with the bases loaded and made no mistake as he hit a grand slam, which made it 9-0 Demon Deacons. 

Wake Forest celebrates after an offensive explosion in game two against Pittsburgh.

In the third inning, Kurtz continued his already fantastic game with a three-run home run to right field, scoring Costello and Hawke. Johnson also added another RBI in the inning, scoring Bennett, making it 13-0. Once again, this time in the fourth inning, Kurtz earned two RBIs with a single and brought in Hawke and Cecere to score, now making it 15-0. Wake Forest’s offensive dominance continued in the fifth inning with Costello hitting a two-RBI double to left field, scoring Lee and Johnson, extending the lead to 17-0. To follow up later in the inning, believe it or not, Kurtz was not done dealing damage, as he brought in two more runs with a single to left field, making the lead 19-0. 

While the Demon Deacons’ offense continued to dominate, Lowder strived in his excellent pitching throughout the game and was pulled in the seventh inning for freshman William Ray. Lowder left the game while his team was winning 21-2 and finished with nearly seven innings pitched, three hits allowed and an impressive seven strikeouts. To finish off an already unbelievable game for Wake Forest, Johnson put the cherry on top with a solo home run in the ninth inning, making the score a lopsided 23-2. After being shut out in the first game, the Demon Deacons responded intensely in game two and tied up the three-game set at one game apiece. The final score was 23-4, Wake Forest. 

In the final matchup, the Demon Deacons trusted sophomore Josh Hartle (7-2) on the mound and faced the Panthers’ junior Kyle Mosley (0-5). Pittsburgh’s inability to stop the Wake Forest downpour in game two continued right into this final matchup. In the second inning, junior Bennett Lee got the scoring started with a monster grand slam. Costello added in an RBI single as well, scoring freshman Marek Houston and giving Wake Forest the early 5-0 lead. In the third inning, Kurtz continued his outstanding play from game two by hitting a solo home run, making it 6-0. Later in the same inning, the Panthers scored their only run of the game after senior Noah Martinez hit an RBI single, bringing home Sky Duff. In the fifth inning, the Demon Deacon offense continued to storm after Bennett, Johnson and Cecere all earned an RBI each, scoring three total runs consisting of Costello, Kurtz and Wilken, making it 9-1. 

Hartle, who had a solid outing while protecting the Wake Forest lead, was taken out of the game in the sixth inning for Cole Roland. Hartle left the game with five innings pitched, three hits allowed and a remarkable eight strikeouts. 

The Demon Deacon offense extended the score in the eighth inning to 12-1 after Wilken hit a three-run home run scoring Kurtz and Costello. The scoring was not done yet as Wake Forest put up five runs in the ninth inning, scored by Lee, Houston, Hawke, Costello and Kurtz, making it 17-1 which ended up as the final score of game three.

After dominating Pittsburgh in the final two games of the three-game set and winning yet another series, Wake Forest improved their conference record to an ACC best 16-4.