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Wake Forest advances to first super regional since 2017 with 15-1 win over George Mason

The Deacs outscored their opponents 48-7 in the regional

Wake Forest Baseball

WINSTON SALEM, NC – In Saturday/early Sunday’s 21-6 victory over two-seed Maryland, Wake Forest knocked just one home run out of park. Later that day, three homers powered the Deacs to a comfortable 15-1 win over George Mason, sealing the program’s first trip to the NCAA Super Regional since 2017.

“[I’m] super proud of this club and what we’ve accomplished to date,” head coach Tom Walter said after the game. “I think we all know we’ve got more work to do. But we’re going to sit here and enjoy this one for 24 or 36 hours and then get back to work on Tuesday.”

When the charge to the pitching mound for a celebration occurred, one couldn’t help but remember where Wake Forest stood a year ago — grieving a loss to Maryland that ended its season in the College Park Regional. The team has come a long way since then.

“Everything that’s been building, starting with last year and the leadership group — we have Pierce Bennett and Adam Cecere being right at the heart of that, and of course, Josh Hartle and and his class as well,” Walter said. “And then Brock Wilken and Cam Minacci and the junior class.”

“It’s really just been a complete transformation of our program over the last couple of years, and we’re just really proud. The momentum of this season started early in the year, but it built as the season went on. The culmination of that is what you saw today.”

The culmination involves more than just what’s on the field, Walter knows. It’s so much more.

“[There was] total support from the town of Winston Salem,” he said. “Our fan experience people did an amazing job all weekend, the rhino support staff, the video content people, [sports information director] Ryan Sosic and his team, [it was] a total team effort. My mom says all the time, ‘it takes a village,’ and she’s right. To accomplish what we’ve accomplished so far this year, it takes people coming together to do great things.”

Over the course of the three-game weekend, Wake Forest didn’t just win — it dominated. The Deacs outscored their opponents 48-7.

“It was obviously very impressive, the way we played,” Josh Hartle noted. “We’re just trying to go out and play our game, and we’re not going to let the foot off the gas. I think that’s what we did the whole weekend.”

“They’re an incredible team,” George Mason head coach Shawn Camp said. “That’s the best college baseball team I’ve seen this year.”

Two of Wake Forest’s home runs came off the bat of Danny Corona, fresh off grand slam against the Terps. Corona hit his first of the day immediately following Bennett’s two-run shot to get Wake Forest on the board in the second inning. The sophomore’s second homer — a three-run blast — came in the third to give the Deacs a 9-0 lead.

“It’s always huge to jump out to an early start, get the momentum in our dugout right away,” Bennett said. “College baseball is all momentum based. Getting the crowd into it early, getting the team up and going, that’s huge. [It] allows us to just cruise.”

On the mound, Hartle took care of business, striking out nine in just under five innings. He was charged with the Patriots’ lone run.

But Hartle wasn’t satisfied with the performance. His three walks stung.

“There’s no excuse,” he said. “I was flat today. I had to come out after a four-pitch walk. It’s uncharacteristic of me, I had three of those. Tonight was unacceptable, but I’m good. I’ll be ready to go this weekend for sure.”

Behind him, Sean Sullivan was dominant out of the bullpen, retiring seven of the 11 batters he faced via strikeout. It was a very important outing for the Northwestern transfer, who missed considerable time due to injury, and also pitched just 2.2 innings in his first game back in the ACC semifinal.

“It’s huge,” Hartle said of Sullivan following his start. “Having Sean in our bullpen — usually he’d be starting — is just lethal. It’s really cool to have him come in behind me [and] have that extreme confidence in him to go out and finish the game.”

In short, Hartle and Sullivan stymied the Patriots’ bats all evening.

“They’re outstanding,” Camp said. “They don’t give in, they execute. I’ve yet to see a staff, outside of playing in the big leagues, that guys can actually execute balls in the zone. [They] force swings with no contact and also make you chase balls that leave the zone late.”

In the final six trips to the plate, Wake Forest tacked on six runs. Will Andrews and Reed Mascolo pitched the concluding four outs of the regional.

While Wake Forest knows its destination for the Super Regional — Winston-Salem — it does not yet know its opponent. That would be the winner of the Tuscaloosa Regional, with Alabama and Boston College facing off. The Crimson Tide need just one win to advance, while the Eagles would need two. Game one is in action at the time of publishing.

“I’ll be watching that game tonight, that’s for sure,” Walter said. “Very closely. We’ll wake up tomorrow morning, we’ll celebrate a little bit more. And then Tuesday, we’ll get back to work.”

Coverage of the Winston-Salem Super Regional, and Wake Forest baseball, will continue throughout the NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned to Blogger So Dear for news, game stories and features.