Baseball falls to LSU, setting up Thursday rematch

An early, three-run home run seals the final score of 5-2


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Wake Forest’s bats fell quiet after the top of the second, scoring no additional runs.

Cooper Sullivan, Sports Editor

Eduardo Perez may have slipped when he said that “hindsight is 50/50” on the Wake Forest-LSU broadcast Wednesday night, but manager Tom Walter couldn’t agree more.

After an uncharacteristic wild pitch from Seth Keener allowed LSU to tie the game up at 2 in the bottom of the third, Walter was faced with a decision. The heavy-hitting Cade Beloso was up to bat for the Tigers with runners on second and third. 

“I had a chance to walk Beloso there with a 2-0 count,” Walter said both during a mid-game dugout interview and at the post-game presser. “I should have pulled the trigger on an intentional walk there and loaded the bases for [Jordan] Thompson…Seth threw a 2-0 changeup that he just elevated, and Beloso didn’t miss it. He’s a good hitter.”

The graduate student, whose .324 batting average is only third-best on the Tigers, stamped Keener’s changeup over the right-field wall, sending LSU to an early 5-2 lead and an eventual win by the same score. 

With the Tigers’ victory over the Demon Deacons, the two teams will face each other yet again on Thursday evening, and the winner will play the Florida Gators in the best-of-three national championship series. 

Losing is a somewhat foreign feeling for this ball club — this is only the 11th of the season and their first since a loss in the ACC Tournament semifinals back in May. This is the first time Wake Forest has been faced with an elimination game in this NCAA postseason tournament. 

“I think it just goes to show that you don’t take any day for granted,” pitcher Sean Sullivan said. “[We] just keep fighting for another day to play with each other. I know that’s what it’s all about. That’s what we want to do. We’ll have to be extra gritty tomorrow, grind out at-bats, just keep working on the mound. Just fight to play one more day with each other.”

At-bats have been a struggle for the Demon Deacons since coming to Omaha, but with the exception of the heart of the lineup, Wake Forest swung decently well Wednesday night. Sadly, it just was not enough. 

LSU used three pitchers within the first two innings, giving up four walks, two hits and two runs to the Demon Deacons, but the quick start was soon squelched. Griffin Herring, the third attempt for coach Jay Johnson, retired his first seven batters. The freshman lasted 4.2 innings, fanning six, walking one and letting only three hits get past, which included a line-drive by Tommy Hawke that, had it not been tipped by Herring’s glove, would have been in perfect position for the Tiger defenders.

Hawke and Pierce Bennett were the bright spots of the otherwise average offense, putting the ball into play three times with two runs knocked in. The two through five slots of the lineup (Lucas Costello, Nick Kurtz, Brock Wilken, Justin Johnson) drew four walks but went 0-for-15. Wake Forest left an astounding 12 runners on base by the end of the night.

“Herring came in and threw well,” Walter said. “He was kind of effectively wild. He would have big misses, then he’d locate. And he’s got a good arm. He’s got good stuff. We just didn’t force him to get in the zone enough and didn’t grind and stay inside baseballs as much as we needed to do on a day like this.”

He continued: “I think 18 of our first 21 outs were via either fly ball or strikeout. And when you’re playing in these conditions, you’ve got to keep the ball out of the air. You’ve got to be hard and low. You can’t strike out, and you can’t hit the ball in the air. And we did both of those things today.”

The Demon Deacons can’t dwell on the game for too long as in less than 24 hours, they will have their biggest game since 1955. The third game against LSU in the last four days will most likely see a duel between the two team’s aces.

Although neither have been confirmed, it is all but confirmed that Rhett Lowder (16-0) and Paul Skenes (12-2) will both be taking the mound tonight at 7 p.m.