WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wake Forest cleanup hitter Gavin Sheets arrived for an early round of batting practice at 11 a.m. Friday.
“The real Gavin Sheets showed up this morning,” he told Wake coach Tom Walter.
The junior first baseman was in a funk early this season, sitting with a .105 batting average, getting just two hits in his first 19 at-bats.
He shook it off Friday night in historic fashion, tying two Wake Forest program records as he led the Deacs (3-3) to a 15-5 win over Southern Cal (4-1)
Sheets tied the Wake record with three home runs in a game, as well as the single-game record of nine RBIs.
"With Gavin, you knew eventually it was going to come. Putting Ben Breazeale in the batting order behind him helped get him some more pitches,” Walter said. “They have been pitching around him a little bit, and he’s been pressing.
“It’s early season stuff with Gavin. Hitters find a way to hit. He’s been putting in early work. His swings in batting practice and on video have been good.”
Sheets said breaking out of his five-game early-season slump is a relief.
“Coaches did a good job of keeping me calm,” he said.
Sheets said it’s the first time he’s had three home runs in one game.
“You could never expect that. It’s the first time I’ve done that,” he said. “We’re playing good baseball as a team, and that’s what is important.”
Jonathan Pryor had yet another outstanding performance leading off for the Deacs, going 4-for-5 with four runs scored and two RBIs. He’s reached base in 14 of his last 15 plate appearances.
“It’s tough when a guy has nine RBIs to talk about anything other than that, but Jonathan Pryor is good with that,” Walter said. “He likes staying under the radar screen. If he gets four hits a night and nobody talks with him, he’s good with that.”
Parker Dunshee earned the win on the mound for the Deacs, going 5.2 innings with nine strikeouts while walking just one.
“I thought he threw the ball well. I thought he threw the ball a lot better this week than he did last week against Houston,” Walter said.
John McCarren relieved Dunshee, got out of a small jam, then pitched a perfect 7th inning.
“Outstanding,” Walter said about McCarren’s outing. “John is so reliable for us. We can put him in any role and get a solid outing from him. He came in and did exactly what we wanted him to. It enabled up to add to our lead by getting it to 12-4. If it stayed 9-4, we would have kept John out there.”
Freshman Morgan McSweeney pitched the 8th in what was clearly his best outing so far of the young season.
“I thought he looked really good,” Walter said. “We’re excited about the way he threw.”
But the big lead meant the Deacs bullpen is largely intact heading into the final two games of the three-game series.
“It’s huge. We saved most of our bullpen,” Walter said. “We didn’t use Griffin Roberts, so we’ll have him available the next two days. To have a fresh bullpen with two games to go against a team like that is a bonus.
“The two-game series starts tomorrow.”
The Deacs host game two Saturday against USC at 4 p.m. at Couch Ballpark. Connor Johnstone (1-0, 0.00) is set for the Deacs against the Trojans Brad Wegman (1-0, 1.50).