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Connor Johnstone throws 1-hit shutout in Wake DH split

Wake Forest splits an opening-night doubleheader in Houston.

Wake Forest split an opening-day doubleheader Friday in Houston after game-one starter Connor Johnstone pitched a one-hit complete game shutout in a 5-0 win over Nicholls.

Johnstone struck out six and allowed just two walks in a masterful performance.

“Anytime you’re playing four games in a weekend, to get an outing like that right out of the gate is something that is critical,” Wake Forest coach Tom Walter said. “It was certainly unexpected at this time of year to get a complete game, but his pitch count was low.

“He was throwing three pitches for strikes, had command of his fastball and had his cutter going. They didn’t get many barrels on the ball. CJ was outstanding.”

Wake center fielder Stuart Fairchild hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the 3rd to get the Deacs on the board against Nicholls. Fairchild had three hits on the night.

“His at-bats all day today were good. He is swinging the bat really well. Offensively, we struggled pretty much in both games,” Walter said. “We didn’t have a big day offensively, but he was one of the guys that had good at-bats throughout the day.”

Three freshmen were called on to start during the doubleheader. Patrick Frick got the start in both games at shortstop, while Nick DiPonzio and Christian Long earned starts at designated hitter. Frick and DiPonzio got their first collegiate hits.  

“When (Ben) Breazeale went down and Bruce Steel was unavailable, we needed the freshmen to step up. Patrick was solid today,” Walter said. “He had a couple hits in the second game against Romero. Nick DiPonzio was kind of in the middle of the two innings we scored in the first game.”

Breazeale started the first game of the doubleheader, but came out early after back spasms.

“We’ll know a lot more in the morning. Same thing happened about 10 days ago, and he was out for four-or-five days then,” Walter said. “We certainly should have him for USC, but I’m not sure about the rest of this weekend. He’s worked so hard to get to this point, and then this happens on opening day. Nobody wants to see that.”

Bruce Steel was the presumed starting shortstop, but strained an oblique in batting practice in Houston.

“I don’t know that we’ll have him this weekend, but I would think we’d have both those guys next weekend against USC,” Walter said.

Third baseman Johnny Aiello had a stellar day in the field, making a diving stab in game two against Houston and several solid plays in the opener.

“He was solid all day. The first game he made a couple of really good plays. In the second game, he made that play down the line in the second inning,” Walter said. “He was outstanding all day defensively. Our defense all day was good. The two errors we had were silly errors. They weren’t errors on balls we should have made plays on.”

Wake Forest ace Parker Dunshee was touched up for six runs on nine hits in the Deacs 8-1 loss to Houston in the nightcap.

“His off-speed stuff wasn’t great tonight, and I think that was the difference. His slider wasn’t as good as it usually is, and it cost him,” Walter said. “He threw four shutout innings to start the game. He threw the ball better than his numbers suggest, for sure.”

The Deacs will throw John McCarren Saturday against Nicholls and will finish the series with Donnie Sellers starting against Houston on Sunday. They also have plenty of arms left in the bullpen for the final two days.

“We haven’t used Griffin (Roberts), Rayne Supple or Morgan McSweeney yet,” Walter said. “We have two single games left. Our pitching is in good shape down the stretch (of this weekend).”

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