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Wake Forest handles rain delay, outmatches Maryland 21-6

After a four-run first inning, the Deacs never looked back

Wake Forest Baseball

WINSTON SALEM, NC – At 5:30 pm, Wake Forest and Maryland entered a rain delay. Hours later — still a delay. But, four hours and 45 minutes after the scheduled first pitch time — with an announcement from Steve Forbes to boot — the Deacons and Terps hit the field to play baseball, one that became much more critical in the grand scheme of the regional.

And, with an energy that betrayed the 10:45 pm start, Wake Forest pounced on Maryland early, scoring four runs in the first inning en route to a 21-6 victory. The win sends the Deacons straight to the regional finals with no losses in a double-elimination tournament.

“We talk about momentum all the time,” head coach Tom Walter said after the game. “When you’re dealing with college kids, momentum is everything.”

“They were relentless tonight,” Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn noted. “They had great energy from the jump and put us on our heels early.”

Four innings proved to be pivotal for Wake Forest offensively. In the four-run opener, Brock Wilken, Justin Johnson and Pierce Bennett knocked three-straight hits to put Maryland starter Nick Dean in an early hole.

The Deacs then added two runs to the board in the third with Johnson and Bennett’s second hits of the game — a triple off the wall for Johnson and a double for Bennett.

Runs seven through nine came from the bottom of the lineup in the fifth, with Danny Corona and Marek Houston each registering singles.

Following a two-run homer by Nick Lorusso to bring the Terps within six — and add some pressure for Wake Forest — the Deacs feasted in the seventh with five walks, two HBPs and a single for six runs.

Rhett Lowder’s start was one of his best, especially considering the time he first hit the mound. In six innings, he allowed just three hits and struck out 11.

“I definitely was a little bit more fired up today,” Lowder said. “I mean, it was a long day, and then just getting on the field in this environment here at The Couch, the crowd really got me going.”

The crowd itself, with a 10:45 pm start, was large in numbers and even bigger in noise. It was an announcement by Forbes — with members of the baseball team cheering in the background — to return to the stadium that ignited a fire in the fan base.

“[I] was really proud of the Deacon Nation that showed up today, coming back the way they did for that 10:45 start,” Walter said. “Shout out to Coach Forbes, whose tweet I’m sure motivated at least five or 600 people to make the trip back over to The Couch. I just want to thank the Deacon Nation.”

“He’s welcome anytime he wants to come,” Walter continued on the topic of Forbes. “He had our guys fired up. We needed a little shot of adrenaline. I was pumped to see him in there.”

Two of the hits proved to be the lone mark against Lowder in his start — Lorusso took the junior deep twice to record all three of Maryland’s pre-relief runs.

“The first one…I kind of left it out and backed it up right over the heart of the plate,” Lowder said. “That seventh thing [homer], the fastball ran back over the plate. That tends to happen when I get a little bit more fatigued. I think it was a lot of things. It was my first time pitching at 1:30 in the morning.”

Lowder attempted a seventh inning, but didn’t seem to have the reserves to get through, and Wake Forest turned to Michael Massey with two on and no outs.

In response, Massey struck out three to maintain the Deacs’ six-run lead.

With its final two innings at the plate, Wake Forest put the game away with 12 runs, almost entirely coming against relievers Maryland does not plan to use in high-leverage situations.

Now, with one game left to win for a Super Regional appearance, Wake Forest will face the winner of *today’s* 2pm game between George Mason and Maryland.

Josh Hartle is expected to start, with Sean Sullivan following out of the bullpen. First pitch is set for 6pm.