WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wake Forest has won their first three conference series to start the season for the first time since 2002.
It didn’t come without anxiety and turbulence.
The Deacs (18-7, 6-3) overcame the adversity of gifting away game one of the series against Georgia Tech (13-9, 3-6) Friday night by bouncing back and winning the final two, clinching the contest and the series with an 8-4 win Sunday at David F. Couch Ballpark.
Wake coach Tom Walter told the team how proud of them he is after the victory Sunday.
“It’s huge. For us to respond that way, I just told the guys I’m really proud of them,” Walter said. “This says a lot about the character of our club. We’re looking forward to getting back on the field Tuesday.”
Connor Johnstone (3-0) delivered an outstanding start on the mound for the Deacs, going 6.2 innings, scattering eight hits while striking out seven.
“Connor threw the ball really well today. He had three pitches going. He was locating his fastball well,” Walter said. “That’s the best I’ve seen Connor pitch this year, and it was when we needed it. We had a thin bullpen today. We needed him to go deep in the game and he did.”
Johnstone knew the high stakes involved.
“I wouldn’t call it stress. I would call it a little more high-pressured,” he said. “I knew if I threw strikes, my defense would be behind me and we would score runs and end up winning the game.
“My goal was to get us into the eighth inning, then give the ball to Griff or McCarren to shut it down.”
He kept his pitch count down during the contest, and left with two out in the top of the 7th holding a 5-2 lead.
“They were an aggressive team,” Johnstone said. “If I could keep them off balance with a few different pitches — their aggressiveness helped me be efficient.”
Offensively, several Deacs contributed Sunday. Wake scored 31 runs on the weekend.
Every starter reached base, and all by Keegan Maronpot delivered a base hit. Seven different Deacs scored runs.
“Through the first third of the year, literally everyone has done their part. It’s the first time in my three years it’s been like that, so it’s really special,” Wake centerfielder Stuart Fairchild said. “It’s not just the offense, we have to give credit to our pitchers too. This is the first year we’ve had three great weekend starters, a great mid-week starter and a great bullpen. Up and down the entire team, it’s just been great.”
Walter said having depth and balance helps make the Deacs a dangerous offensive unit.
“It’s fun. You’re not having to rely on the same two or three guys. This is a sport of failure and guys are going to go through 1-for-10 stretches,” he said. “Those stretches hit every good hitter, so if you’re relying on the same two or three guys every day and they have one of those stretches, you’re going to be hard-pressed to score. But when you have a balanced lineup, and you can get runs from every part of the lineup it makes a huge difference.”
Closer Griffin Roberts pitched the last two innings for Wake, striking out four.
“I give Griffin credit. He didn’t have his best stuff today. He was a little tender from Friday, throwing so much, but he gutted it out,” Walter said. “He got us six outs. He wanted the ball. He wanted to be out there, and I love seeing that out of Griff.”
The Deacs will become road warriors over the next two weeks, with eight of their next nine games being played away from The Couch. The play at Appalachian State at 6 p.m. Tuesday, before departing for a three-game ACC series at Miami next weekend.
“These guys are a committed bunch. We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing,” Walter said. “There’s no reason to change anything.”