Baseball’s season ends in heartbreak loss to LSU

Wake Forest’s season ends one game short of the CWS finals


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

The 2023 Wake Forest baseball team went the furthest of any Wake Forest team since 1955.

Avikar Khakh, Staff Writer

Win or go home — that was the situation that Wake Forest and LSU faced as they battled each other for the third time in Omaha, which would soon become known as one of the greatest baseball games in college history.

A Tiger win in Game 2 against the Demon Deacons set up the most anticipated pitching matchup yet as Demon Deacon ace, junior Rhett Lowder, battled against the Tigers’ ace, junior Paul Skenes. Both pitchers have been outstanding all season and are projected to be early first-round picks in the upcoming MLB draft. 

Unfortunately, the Demon Deacons faced some early adversity right before game time as sophomore Nick Kurtz was ruled out of the game due to a rib injury. Kurtz has been a critical piece for Wake Forest in the regular season due to his offensive power but was a combined 0-9 in the previous three CWS games. Freshman Jack Winnay took over for Kurtz at first base. 

Both Lowder and Skenes were dealing as the game went scoreless through seven innings. Lowder allowed three hits and struck out six before he was pulled from the game after seven and reliever Cole Roland was brought out of the bullpen. The ace had a tremendous game on the biggest stage and proved once again his value on the mound. 

“It’s impossible. Obviously [we] wouldn’t be here without him,” Head Coach Tom Walter said about Lowder. “Total gamer, matching Paul Skenes pitch for pitch. He’s an even better kid than a pitcher. He’s a guy you want to go to war with. He’s the epitome of what you want in a college baseball player.”

The offensive action was limited in this one before the top frame of the eighth inning when Wake Forest’s Justin Johnson was coming home on a squeeze play after freshman Marek Houston dropped a bunt; however, LSU made the play at home, and Johnson was unable to score. 

Roland pitched to only two batters before sophomore Michael Massey took over the bump with a man on second and one out. Massey came into the game set to face LSU’s best hitter, and one of the best in the nation, junior Dylan Crews. The reliever made no mistakes, striking out Crews for the second out and to follow up forcing a fly out to end the inning and send the game into the ninth scoreless. Massey continued dealing for the following ninth and 10th innings, punching out two straight three-up, three-down innings. 

The 11th inning proved to be a great opportunity for the Demon Deacons to break the scoreless game, as they had runners on first and second with power-hitting junior Brock Wilken at the plate. However, Wilken flew out to center field and the half inning came to an unfortunate end for Wake Forest. LSU took advantage of the missed scoring opportunity, as Crews hit a lead-off single in the bottom frame of the inning. As a result, Walter made the decision to put in junior Camden Minacci to take over the mound from Massey. On Minacci’s first pitch, LSU sophomore Tommy White hit a deep walk-off homerun to left field to abruptly end the game and send the Tigers to the College World Series Finals with a 2-0 victory.

Regardless of how the game ended, the Demon Deacons had one of their best seasons in program history, and many players proved their worth along the way. The season provided a plethora of amazing moments that we all celebrated from beginning to end. A new standard has been set for Wake Forest baseball.