WINSTON SALEM, NC – For the past month, Wake Forest’s midweek games have been marred by struggles on the mound, especially from de-facto starter Reed Mascolo. That continued Wednesday, but another trend came to the rescue for the Demon Deacons — hitting home runs. With five critical scores coming via the long ball, Wake Forest was able to rally from its early woes to a 7-4 comeback victory over Liberty.
“We had a meeting [in the] fifth or sixth [inning],” Nick Kurtz said after the game. “The hitters were like ‘we’re getting guys on, we just can’t come up with a big hit. We just got to keep putting guys on, keep grinding at bats and keep getting base runners. And at one point, it’s gonna happen.’”
In its first appearance at the dish, Wake Forest responded to a one-run Liberty first with three of their own. With Tommy Hawke and Kurtz on base, Brock Wilken blasted a 112 mph drive over the left-field wall to take the lead.
Then, in the seventh, the Deacs’ bats came back to life via Kurtz. After a leadoff single by Lucas Costello, the sophomore first baseman — playing at home for the first time since an injury sidelined him for two weeks — awoke The Couch with a shot to left to retake the lead.
NICKY. NUKES.— Wake Forest Baseball (@WakeBaseball) April 20, 2023
DEACS. LEAD. @nickkurtz23 pic.twitter.com/ojYG9Lth1a
Two insurance runs came off the bats of Justin Johnson and Bennett Lee later in the inning.
In between the two deep balls, Wake Forest’s struggles at the plate in a Sunday loss to Louisville continued. The Deacs did not bat well with runners on base, leaving 11 stranded over the course of the game — including a bases-loaded scenario in the fourth that ended with a double play.
“I think that’s baseball,” head coach Tom Walter said. “That turns pretty quickly. We’ve got good hitters, and we want those guys up in those situations. You need to find a way to win, and we did that today. Hopefully that turns for us on Friday because we haven’t done a good job with runners on base the last two games.”
Additionally, starting pitching has been a rough point for Wake Forest in its midweek games. Following a loss to Elon in early April, Mascolo was pulled after two innings and three earned runs at Appalachian State last week.
He didn’t last four innings Wednesday, giving up an unearned run in the first, induced by an uncharacteristic Marek Houston error. Then, six-straight outs were bookended by backbreaking home runs — two swings of the bat that proved to define Mascolo’s day.
With a tough midweek ahead against No. 10 Coastal Carolina — one of the five teams that have defeated the Deacons this season — there’s much to think about.
“We’ve got to make a decision [on] whether he’s gonna go against Coastal on Tuesday,” Walter said. “We certainly have some concerns with Reed’s last three starts. He hasn’t been as sharp.”
After Mascolo’s start, a three-hit, scoreless performance by the Deacons’ bullpen — Cole Roland, Michael Massey, Will Ray, Derek Crum and Cam Minacci — allowed Wake Forest to grind out another midweek win, one they knew they could go get.
.@ColeRoland makes em miss to end a scoreless top of the sixth pic.twitter.com/3tVM8fKf4i— Wake Forest Baseball (@WakeBaseball) April 19, 2023
“We never felt like we were out of the game today,” Kurtz said. “Every single inning, we knew we were going to win. We always had the belief that we were going to win.”
The Deacs don’t have much downtime after the victory — they will drive to Pittsburgh tomorrow morning for a weekend series with the Panthers, who are fresh off a series win over No. 8 Virginia.
First pitch on Friday is set for 6pm on ACCNX.