With Louisville falling to Clemson in the opening game on Friday, the Wake Forest baseball team took the field against 11th ranked Virginia Cavaliers knowing they needed a win to keep their hopes of advancing to the ACC Championship Game alive. Despite falling down early by a 5-1 margin, Wake stormed back to take care of business with an exciting 10-9 win in Durham.
Led by a vintage Will Craig day at the plate on offense, the Deacon bats came alive after mustering only one hit and one run through the first three frames. The lone hit, a home run by Mondou, put Wake out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning but the Cavaliers hit a home run of their own in the second to tie things up.
The Cavaliers would continue putting runs on the board in the third and fourth while Wake was unable to get anything going at the plate. Starter Connor Johnstone struggled at times and bowed out after four innings, allowing eight hits and five runs to a solid offensive team in Virginia. Ultimately, Garrett Kelly was brought in after a baserunner reached in the fifth and Kelly pieced together five outs while allowing only an unearned run to quiet Virginia's attack.
Meanwhile, starter Alec Bettinger couldn't keep the ball in the park for the Hoos. After Stuart Fairchild flied out to open the inning, Craig drilled a double out to center and Kevin Conway drilled a two-out, two-run shot to left following a Gavin Sheets strikeout. Freshman Johnny Aiello hit a double out to left following a Ben Breazeale walk and cut the lead to 5-4 but Aiello was thrown out at third trying to stretch the double to end the inning.
Wake tacked on four runs in the 5th to take an 8-5 lead after two more home runs, each two run shots, from Joey Rodriguez and Will Craig. The Rodriguez shot over the left field "blue monster" landed on the second story deck of the apartment building beyond left field. It was absolutely bombed to left.
UVA scored runs in both the 6th and 7th, but Wake matched the run each time and maintained a 10-7 lead going into the ninth. After Donnie Sellers came in for the 8th, Will Craig took the ball to the mound in the 9th. Craig got off to a rocky start in the inning allowing a single, followed by a double into the gap to make it 10-8 with nobody out and a runner on second. Rodriguez made a great diving play out in right field to record out one and managed to hold the runner at second.
Following a single up the middle, which moved runners to the corners Mondou made a great play on a sharply hit ball up the middle to gun the runner out at second while a run scored to cut the Wake lead to 10-9. With the go-ahead run at the plate and the tying run on first with two outs, Craig induced a soft grounder to second for the game-ending out.
With the win, Wake is now 1-1 in pool play and UVA dropped to 0-2 and is eliminated from ACC Championship contention. The Deacs take on Clemson tomorrow morning at 11 and UVA plays Louisville at 3. If Wake beats Clemson then the Deacs will need UVA to upset Louisville to send Wake to the Championship Game on Sunday to face the winner of tomorrow night's FSU-Miami game. This is the only way the Deacs can advance to Sunday's title game.
The victory was a huge boost for Wake's NCAA Tournament hopes, which were already pretty stellar with a top 30 RPI and an appearance in ACCT pool play in a stacked ACC. Wake should now find themselves securely in after picking up their 13th win of the season over a top 50 opponent. Get out there tomorrow Deacs and take care of business against the Tigers and you may find yourself playing for a conference championship come Sunday. And as always, go Deacs!