WINSTON SALEM, NC – In his last two starts, Rhett Lowder was good, allowing two earned runs each against Pittsburgh and Wofford. But he wasn’t the lights out, dominant pitcher Wake Forest had come to know throughout the season. That changed Friday, with Lowder holding No. 19 Boston College scoreless for seven innings and leading the Deacs to a 6-0 series-opening victory.
“Rhett Lowder obviously was the story,” Wake Forest head coach Tom Walter said after the win. “I think we’re 12-0 in games he’s started, so [it’s] always good to have that guy on the mound.”
“He had all three pitches working today,” Walter continued. “I thought he did a really good job pitching with his fastball today...located [it] on both sides of the plate. I thought this was the best start he’s had in a while.”
The scoreless line is impressive in its own right, but the manner in which Lowder accomplished that feat puts even more weight behind it — he brilliantly worked out of trouble.
“This was just another one of those points where I had to do it,” Lowder said. “When I get a guy on first and second and get a double play, it’s good practice because I need to be able to do that as we get deeper in the season. There’s going to be trouble. It’s unavoidable in this game. Being able to get that ground ball at will is one of the biggest things.”
Being dominant, even when in the face of danger, makes Lowder that much more of a threat down the stretch of this season.
“It’s definitely demoralizing to be the opposing team when you’re not guaranteed anything until it’s in,” he noted.
It began in the first inning, when Lowder gave up back-to-back singles with no outs. But, with a strikeout and an induced double play, the junior ace was out unscathed.
Boston College had two on with one out again in the fifth. Lowder responded with two-straight strikeouts.
The seventh, his final inning, was one of five where Eagles reached base against Lowder, yet their scoresheet remained empty. Lowder’s final line: five hits and no runs allowed in seven innings, with nine strikeouts.
“Outstanding,” Nick Kurtz said of Lowder’s outing. “That’s what we expect from him every night because it’s just what he does. He does it every single week, week in and week out.”
Lowder’s replacement from the bullpen, Michael Massey, was highly effective, setting the Eagles down with four strikeouts in two innings, without allowing a hit.
While the bats didn’t sound often for Wake Forest throughout the evening, it was surely loud when they did. Through three innings, the Deacs had two hits — one from Kurtz, the other via Tommy Hawke — but both left the yard as solo home runs.
Wake added a third run in the fourth — a Brock Wilken home run bid bounced back off the wall, but Justin Johnson brought him home on a single. In the fifth, it was a bases-loaded walk that added one to the scoreboard.
And then, in the eighth, with Wake Forest just on the edge of sticking with Massey or having to burn closer Camden Minacci, two cracks of the bat sealed the decision.
First, Kurtz followed his initial home run with an even bigger second, knocking the ball over the right-field fence with a 115 mph velocity.
“I knew, 3-1 count, the heater was coming,” Kurtz said of the at-bat. “Make sure to be on time for it. I was just using the count to my advantage.”
With two outs later in the inning, Johnson added a solo shot of his own to make the score 6-0, and bring Massey out to close the ninth.
JJ— Wake Forest Baseball (@WakeBaseball) May 6, 2023
His 12th HR of the year makes it 6-0 Deacs! pic.twitter.com/iDj8PuyXS7
“The plan was, if Massey got in any trouble in the ninth, to go right to Minacci,” Walter said. “But once it got to six-nothing, we had [reliever Cole] Roland up and ready.”
With the win, Wake Forest moves to 38-6 overall and 17-4 in the ACC, five and a half games clear of second place Clemson for the top spot in the Atlantic division. The Deacs will look to take the series tomorrow, with first pitch set for 4pm on ACCNX.