When watching Wake Forest baseball this season, and in past ones too, there is one thing that has come to be as expected as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west — a dominant start from Rhett Lowder on Friday evening.
The dominant start didn’t come on the scheduled Friday or a canceled Saturday due to rain that covered the Triad for much of the weekend. And, when Lowder finally took the mound on Sunday for the first game of a doubleheader, dominance eluded him.
Throughout his four inning start, Lowder struggled with command and consistently fought the pitch count — he was on 89 leading into the fifth.
Additionally, Lowder battled against baserunners in each inning. In the first, he worked around two walks for a scoreless inning. After giving up his first run in the second, he left two on base in the following inning. In the fourth, Lowder faced a runner on third with no outs, yet was able to get out unscathed.
But, with Wake Forest ahead 3-1 on a two-run fourth, the fifth inning proved to be where the buck finally stopped. Lowder couldn’t work himself out of another jam. Following a leadoff double, a high-flier caught the sun and could not be corralled in left field by Lucas Costello. On the very next pitch, Lowder was gone. Chase Nixon took the junior ace deep over the right-field fence for a three-run home run to reclaim the lead for NC State.
Following those fateful fourth and fifth innings that saw Wake claim a lead and then surrender it, the bats were nowhere to be found. That is, until the bottom of the seventh. With Seth Keener setting the Wolfpack down 1-2-3 in back-to-back innings, the Deacs were poised to finally make noise.
Freshman shortstop Marek Houston got things going with a single, getting the Deacs on base leading back to the top of the lineup. From there, Costello and Brock Wilken loaded the bases with one out. Pierce Bennett walked after a mid-count pitching change to even the score at four, and Costello snuck home on a passed ball to give the Deacs the lead. For the last run of a meteoric inning, Justin Johnson flied out to left for the sacrifice.
Leading by two, shutdown closer Camden Minacci hit the mound in the ninth to bring the Deacs home. Yet, NC State didn’t go down without a fight. The Wolfpack put two runners on base, but with two outs, Minacci induced a fly to right to secure the win.
The Deacs will look to ride the tails of the comeback victory in the second game of the doubleheader vs NC State. First pitch is set for 4pm on ACC Network.