Baseball dominates George Mason again, advances to super-regional

The Demon Deacons outscored opponents 48-7 in three regional games


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

The Demon Deacons celebrate after winning the Winston-Salem Regional.

Cooper Sullivan, Sports Editor

It was only right for the Demon Deacons to cap off an impressive weekend of excellent baseball with their all-around best performance of the Winston-Salem Regional. The No. 1 team in the country did what top-ranked teams are supposed to do — not just win, but win in such a commanding fashion that all you can do is tip your cap. Or shoot a couple finger-guns in approval, if you’re Pierce Bennett. 

As was the story with all of Wake Forest’s postseason games so far, they struck first, they struck hard and they showed no mercy to George Mason on Sunday evening. The 15-1 win was the third-straight double-digit margin victory. In the two games in which the Demon Deacons and Patriots squared off, Wake Forest outscored and out-hit George Mason by 26. 

“In years past, we’ve sometimes been a little too one-dimensional as a team, but this is not a team [like that],” Head Coach Tom Walter said. “As I tell our guys all the time, what we do is smother you with pitching and defense, and we get big hits. That’s who we are.”

Both were present in the regional-clinching win. After allowing the first two George Mason batters to reach base, Wake Forest starter Josh Hartle stepped back, took a deep breath and took in the sold out hometown crowd. After regaining his focus, the lefty was able to retire 12 of the next 15 batters he faced, including nine strikeouts. 

George Mason’s starter, true freshman Logan Rumberg’s outing was the opposite. A strong 1-2-3 punch in the top of the first did not carry over to the second as Bennett and Danny Corona drove in three on back-to-back home runs. 

Pierce Bennett (No. 5 in gray) celebrates with his team after hitting a two-run home run. (Cooper Sullivan)

Four straight Demon Deacons got on base to start the third, forcing manager Shawn Camp to reach into his bullpen for Kyle Smith earlier than desired. The on-base streak continued for Wake Forest as the lineup was able to hit completely through before the inning’s end. Six runs were added to bring the score to 9-0, including three off another Corona home run, his third of the weekend.

Walter was hoping to use both Hartle and fellow sophomore lefty Sean Sullivan during the course of the game — it was only a matter of when the switch would occur. After a four-pitch walk and a hit batter in the fifth, Sullivan was called in and picked up right where Hartle had left off. Ever efficient, he faced 11 batters, striking out seven and only allowing two hits. 

None of the seven Patriot pitchers were able to slow down the bats of the Demon Deacons as they allowed 17 hits on the night. Six Demon Deacons were able to record multiple hits, including Bennett, who finished the night with three hits and five runs batted in. The right fielder called the heart of the batting order’s (Kurtz-Wilken-Bennett-Johnson) ability to get anyone on base at any point of the game “awesome.”

“They have to pitch to somebody eventually. You know what I mean?” Bennett joked about pitcher’s tendencies to pitch around the Demon Deacons’ heavy hitters.

George Mason had already played earlier in the day, walking it off against Maryland 11-10 in the 10th inning only 55 minutes before lining up against the Deacs. However, none of the Patriots took that as an excuse.

“We’ve been playing doubleheaders all year,” catcher Connor Dykstra said. “We’ve had quicker turnarounds throughout the year, so that’s just how it is. We came in and got a tough drawing, but you know what, I’m proud of the group.”

The Demon Deacons will host the Super Regional in Winston-Salem against Alabama. Start dates will not be announced until the entire field is set, but it could be from June 9-11 or June 10-12. The two squads will play a best-of-three series, and the winner will travel to Omaha the following weekend.

On top of everything, the Demon Deacons earned their 50th win, a program record. 

“I was just looking at the box score just now and it said 50 and 10. I think that’s pretty cool,” Walter said. “I’m just so proud of this team, and the consistency they’ve shown all year, the toughness they’ve shown all year. So hopefully we’ll continue our streak of winning series next week.”

Walter has not decided what the pitching rotation will look like come Super Regionals, saying that it is all dependent on the scheduled dates.