CHAPEL HILL, NC – In the fifth inning, Justin Johnson rocked a ball to right-center to tie the game at two. Except, that ball never made it over the wall — Jacoby Long leaped high into the air and stole the ball, and the run, from the Deacs. In the ensuing two innings, Miami would plate four runs, putting an end to Wake Forest’s bid for an ACC Championship with a 7-2 win.
“We had runners on base really all game and just couldn’t really get that big hit,” head coach Tom Walter said. “[Miami] made some great defensive plays.”
In his first appearance since May 6, Sean Sullivan put together two spectacular innings, shutting down the Hurricanes in 15 total pitches. But, in the third, he loaded the bases and was pulled from the game. Josh Hartle, traditionally a starter for Wake Forest, allowed two runs before getting the final out, both charged to Sullivan.
Wake Forest would add two runs to keep the score close — Pierce Bennett grounded into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded in the third and Danny Corona reached home on an error in the fifth.
But, the Deacs were severely hampered by 12 runners left on base.
“We’re not going to win too many games scoring two runs,” Walter said. “Normally we cash in in those situations. We have these kinds of base runners next weekend, I like our chances.”
Wake Forest’s two runs sandwiched a Yohandy Morales solo home run. And, with runners on second and third in the sixth, Miami got the distance from the Deacs it needed. A possible double play from first to home was just late, giving the Hurricanes a 4-2 advantage. After an intentional walk and advancement on a passed ball, Blake Cyr singled to center to extend the lead to four.
“I hated to take Josh Hartle out of that start and get him out of rhythm,” Walter said. “The weather forecast wasn’t good and I [would] never forgive myself if Sullivan didn’t pitch. That’s why we flipped those, in case we got pulled off the field early. Kind of disrupted the routine of the whole day. And that one’s on me. Again, number one priority was getting ready for next weekend.”
With the state of the field deteriorating debatably past the point of being playable, Miami registered one final blow to Wake Forest — Morales knocked a ball to center field that looked to be a home run, but was brought back into the field. Regardless, the ball was not thrown back in, and Morales sprinted all the way around for the Hurricanes’ first inside-the-park homer since 2005.
“[The] Carolina grounds crew did a great job,” Walter said. “They were outstanding all day making sure that the players stayed safe.”
One benefit of the loss for the Deacs — the team hasn’t lost back-to-back games all year.
“That’s just who we are as a ballclub,” Brock Wilken said “Soon as anything happens, we bounce right back, whether it be losses, whether it be injuries, whatever it may be, someone steps up, and normally we all step up at the same time.
Now, Wake Forest will have a short break before turning to the NCAA Tournament and a home regional. The bracket will be released Monday afternoon.
The pressure only ramps up from here.
“We treat every game as important, so going forward, we’ve got to be a little bit better in certain situations, myself included,” Wilken said. “Sometimes those balls get caught, sometimes those balls fall, and that’s just baseball. Today, they didn’t necessarily go our way. Next time, they will.”