Nick Kurtz (8) had a pair of home runs on Sunday, ending a slump at the plate. However, the two home runs were not enough to surpass North Carolina, with the series ending in a Tar Heel sweep. (Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics)
Nick Kurtz (8) had a pair of home runs on Sunday, ending a slump at the plate. However, the two home runs were not enough to surpass North Carolina, with the series ending in a Tar Heel sweep. (Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics)

No. 10 Tar Heels sweep No. 21 Wake Forest in top-25 ACC clash

The Demon Deacons were swept at home for the first time since 2021

Wake Forest’s offensive efforts continue to be erased by late struggles at the mound. 

The No. 21 Demon Deacons (17-10, 4-8) were swept by No. 10 North Carolina (25-4, 10-2) this weekend, as Wake Forest allowed the Tar Heels to score ten or more runs in two of their three games. 

North Carolina first overcame Wake Forest’s 19-strikeout performance at the mound on Friday night, hitting four home runs to move past the Demon Deacons 6-5. 

Junior right-handed pitcher Chase Burns started at the mound for Wake Forest on Friday night. Despite allowing six runs in his first loss as a Demon Deacon, Burns still tied a career-high 14 strikeouts. That’s his fourth straight game pitching 12 or more strikeouts. 

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Burns’ start on Friday was an unfamiliar sight for Wake Forest fans used to seeing left-handed pitcher Josh Hartle open up the Demon Deacons’ weekend series. Wake Forest Baseball Coach Tom Walter said the decision to start Burns this Friday was to rest the typical weekend opener Hartle. 

“[Hartle’s] working on some things that gave him kind of an extra bullpen day,” Walter said. “So it was as much about just giving Josh an extra two days as it was anything else.” 

North Carolina secured the series on Saturday, powering past Wake Forest 10-6 behind a massive hitting day. 

In front of another record-setting crowd, the Tar Heels’ offensive array was led by infielder Parks Harber’s three homers and outfielder Anthony Donofrio’s two triples. The Demon Deacons, meanwhile, had eight of their nine batters in the lineup reach base. 

Hartle returned for Wake Forest to pitch just over four innings, throwing seven strikeouts and allowing two runs. While Hartle held down the score for Wake Forest to lead by the fifth inning, the Tar Heels scored six runs in the two innings after he exited the game. 

“Our bullpen is in a tough spot right now,” Walter said after the loss. 

North Carolina completed the sweep on Sunday afternoon, but not without a fight from Wake Forest through the final inning. 

The Demon Deacons went up 2-0 behind designated hitter Nick Kurtz’s first of two homers on Sunday. The game was tied twice before North Carolina leapt ahead by three runs through the top of the eighth inning. 

Then, in a massive bottom of the eighth performance, Wake Forest tied the game at ten runs. It felt like the Demon Deacons had a chance of winning at least one game in the series headed into the ninth inning. Walter said he was pleased with his team’s determination throughout the game despite the series already being lost. 

“We were playing like our lives depended on it,” Walter said after the game. “I’m proud of our hitters and the way we battled.” 

In the end, Wake Forest’s hopes of saving the series from a sweep were dashed as they allowed North Carolina to score four runs in the top of the ninth inning alone. By the time the Demon Deacons had the chance to bat again, the offense couldn’t come up with any more clutch hits. 

The three consecutive losses represent Wake Forest’s first sweep at home since the 2021 season, when the Virginia Tech Hokies swept the Demon Deacons in April of that year.

As seen Sunday, Wake Forest’s struggles pitching late in the game continue to give up runs at critical moments, even when the offense looks to be able to fire at will. 

Following the weekend sweep, Wake Forest dropped to No. 21 in college baseball’s top 25 programs. That’s the lowest among the eight ACC schools now in the top 25. 

“I think this team has good baseball in front of it, but we certainly didn’t show that this weekend,” Walter said after the sweep. “We’ve got to find a way to turn the page and come out here on Tuesday and play well against UNC Greensboro.” 

After playing UNC Greensboro at home this Tuesday, the Demon Deacons will face No. 11 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. this weekend for their next ACC matchup. The Friday night game in the series will be broadcasted on ACC Network.

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