Offense Shines in 11-3 Win in NCAA Opener
June 2, 2017
By Wake Forest Athletic Communications (@WakeBaseball)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - No. 13-ranked and top-seeded Wake Forest opened NCAA Tournament play Friday evening with an 11-3 victory over UMBC at David F. Couch Ballpark.
Hosting a regional for the third time in program history and the first time since 2002, Wake Forest (40-18) pounded out 14 hits and used a pair of innings of scoring four or more runs to top the Retrievers (23-24) in opening round play.
Wake Forest advances into the winner's bracket and will play No. 2 seed West Virginia on Saturday at 7 p.m., after the Mountaineers beat Maryland in their opener.
Connor Johnstone fell one strikeout shy of matching his career high as the senior punched out seven batters over 7.2 innings of work. Johnstone scattered 10 hits while only walking one and allowing three runs, two earned. The senior improves to 8-0 on the season with the decision.
Gavin Sheets led off the second inning with a single up the middle before a ground-rule double by Ben Breazeale put runners on second and third with nobody out. Johnny Aiello grounded out to the shortstop, driving in the first run of the game.
Bruce Steel then rocketed a line drive that bounced in and out of the glove of the Retrievers' starting pitcher, Michael Austin. Austin's throw to first sailed wide, allowing Breazeale to score and Steel to advance to second, pushing the Demon Deacon lead to 2-0.
A pair of back-to-back walks loaded the bases with two outs, bringing Mueller to the plate. The sophomore cleared the bases with a double down the right field line, extending the advantage to 5-0 in favor of the Deacs. Fairchild followed with an RBI double of his own, capping a six-run inning for the regional hosts.
UMBC countered with a pair of runs in the top on of the third on a two-run shot from Andrew Casali, his third of the season. The visitors then trimmed the Wake Forest lead to three, adding a run in the top of the sixth on a sacrifice fly.
The Retrievers could have cut into the lead even more, but a pickoff by Breazeale at first and Keegan Maronpot throwing out a runner at home from right field ended the threat.
Back-to-back singles by Steel and Maronpot, followed by a sacrifice bunt from Logan Harvey had the Demon Deacons back in scoring position to open the home half of the sixth. Jonathan Pryor delivered a two-run single, extending Wake Forest's lead to 8-3. A Mueller single, Fairchild RBI double and Gavin Sheets sacrifice fly capped the four-run sixth, a 10-3 advantage.
The Deacs tacked on another run in the seventh on a Harvey RBI single.
Morgan McSweeney came on in relief and recorded the final four outs of the game with a pair of strikeouts.
The Demon Deacons will now face West Virginia in the winner's bracket on Saturday, June 3, at 7 p.m. while UMBC and Maryland will play in an elimination game at 2 p.m.
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