WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Junior first baseman Gavin Sheets had never experienced a victory over North Carolina State, as the Deacs have lost six straight against the Wolfpack and nine of the last 10 meetings.
That changed Friday night.
Sheets homered and tripled, while Wake closer Griffin Roberts delivered three sparkling innings of relief to lift Wake to 6-4 victory over North Carolina State at David F. Couch Ballpark.
“This is a team I haven’t beat since I’ve been here,” Sheets said. “To get that first win is huge.”
Sheets worked a 1-2 count for a walk to lead off the bottom of the 2nd for the Deacs, eventually scoring the first run of the game on a Johnny Aiello double.
The Deacs scored three runs in the 2nd and added two more in the 3rd on solo home runs by both Sheets and Aiello.
“I was looking slider. I was sitting on a slider, he threw me one and I drove it out of here,” Sheets said about his home run. “I knew pretty quick it was out of here.”
Parker Dunshee went six inning for the Deacs as the starter, earning the win. He struck out three, walked three and allowed six hits and four runs — all earned.
Dunshee walked Brett Kinneman, then plunked Joe Dunard on a 1-2 pitch that sailed to start the top of the 4th inning. Wolfpack first baseman Shane Shepard made Dunshee pay for those mistakes by lining a 1-2 pitch over the fence in right field for a three-run home run get get NC State to within a run a 5-4.
Dunshee settled in, struck out the next three batter as he retired the next six Wolfpack batters.
“Parker Dunshee has been a little unlucky. He’s throwing the ball better than the numbers suggest,” Wake Forest coach Tom Walter said. “We’re not worried about him at all. He’s going to get hot and be the guy we all know he is.”
With the Deacs clinging to a one-run lead after six innings, Walter had to decide on using closer Roberts or trying to steal an inning with freshman Morgan McSweeney. He went with Roberts and rode him all the way to the finish.
“He was spectacular today,” Walter said. “Once Griffin was in the game, we were either going to win or lose with him.”
Roberts didn’t allow a hit and walked just one batter in his three innings of work. He earned the save.
“I relied on the slider to set up my fastball tonight — it was a little bit of reverse pitching tonight,” Roberts said. “It worked well tonight.”
Stuart Fairchild led off the Demon Deacon half of the 7th with a bunt single, then Gavin Sheets drove him home on a deep shot off the fence in left field. Sheets came just a few feet short of his second home run of the night, and sent Kinneman crashing awkwardly into the fence.
“I wanted to get the extra run for Griff, even though he only needed one really,” Sheet said.
Walter said the insurance run that gave the Deacs a 6-4 lead was huge.
“It changes the way you play your defense,” he said. “To get three runs off that guy (Roberts) would be very difficult. It takes a lot of pressure off.”
Roberts grew more dominant as the game wore on, striking out the first two batters of the 9th before Brock Deatherage bunted meekly right back to Roberts to end the game.
“My teammates had my back and were ready for me to do well. It just built up,” Roberts said. “The 9th inning was my strongest and that’s with my teammates in the dugout cheering me on. I could hear them screaming so loud.”
Roberts said he will be available to pitch in Saturday’s doubleheader.
“If we heat em up, we’re going to put him in,” Walter said.
Connor Johnstone (1-0, 3.26) will start the 1 p.m. game against NC State Saturday, with Donnie Sellers (2-0, 2.76) slated to pitch the series finale.
“Starting pitching. We need good starts out of Johnstone and/or Sellers to get one of these next two,” Walter said. “Hopefully, it’s the first one, then we take our chances for the sweep.”
The Deacs haven’t won a series over North Carolina State since 2002.
“This sets the tone for the weekend,” Sheets said. “We gotta get out there and win the first one tomorrow as well.”