WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — With the ball high in the air and the potential tying run zooming past third base, headed for home with two out in the top of the 7th, Wake Forest left fielder Jonathan Pryor knew he had a problem — he’d lost the routine fly ball in the lights and had no clue where it was.
“Can’t see it,” he yelled with his arms out to center fielder Stuart Fairchild.
The speedy Fairchild had tracked the ball off the bat and finished the play practically a couple paces behind Pryor to make the grab.
Wake closer Griffin Roberts was flat-out filthy the final two innings, as Wake’s four-run 1st-inning outburst held up for a 4-3 win Friday night over Notre Dame (15-18, 7-9).
The fundamental play by Fairchild in the 7th may have saved the game for the Deacs (26-10, 10-6).
“The sky gets weird. Right off the bat, once it went past the stands I lost it,” Pryor said. “I put my hands up and said I couldn’t see it. That was a big play in the game.”
Fairchild said that’s not normally a ball he would go after, but the outfielders had talked about that exact situation just a few minutes prior.
“It was a really tough sky and I heard Pryor said he couldn’t see it,” he said. “That would have been bad if that drops.”
It was the first batter closer Griffin Roberts faced. He wasn’t concerned as the ball came off the bat.
“Deep flyball to left-center field with Jonathan Pryor and Stuart Fairchild?” Roberts said. “I’m not worried. That’s an out. I saw Stu camped, he gets to any ball in the outfield. That’s a can or corn with Stuart out there.”
“That would have tied the game,” Wake coach Tom Walter said. “Give Stuey credit there for not assuming Jonathan had it. That was a veteran play by a veteran guy.”
Roberts faced seven Fighting Irish, retiring them all including all three on strikes in the 9th.
“I’ve never seen Griffin throw the ball better than he did tonight,” Walter said. “He was locked in throwing strikes. Both his fastball and his breaking ball were so good tonight. He got seven outs on 21 pitches.”
It’s a game that didn’t have the appearance of being this close early on. The Deacs did all their offensive work in the bottom of the 1st, but failed to deliver a knockout blow.
The first six Deacs reached and Wake had the bases loaded with nobody out having already jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
Notre Dame starter Brandon Bielak was struggling, and the Irish already had action in the pen in the form of lightly-used Patrick McDonald, a right-handed freshman who has only pitched three innings so far this season — none in ACC play. He’s sporting a 15.00 ERA.
In other words, if the Deacs collect another couple hits and drive in a few more runs, the Irish weren’t in the mood to their best arms during the first game of a three-game weekend series.
"If we have a couple of better at-bats (right then), that’s easily a game where they pitch off because of the situation and we could score 12 or 14 runs in a game like that,” Walter said. “Give him credit. He settled in and got deep into the game.”
But Beilak settled in and coaxed a double play from Logan Harvey and a popout from Bruce Steel to end the inning with the Deacs up ‘just’ 4-0.
“We had Beilak on the ropes early and just couldn’t put him away,” Walter said. “Give him credit. He settled in and threw a heck of a ballgame. He’s a competitor. He’s talented and will be a draft pick this year.”
Beilak then survived into the 7th inning before turning the ball over to flamethrowing Peter Solomon, who topped out at 96 mph on his fastball.
The Deacs didn’t score after the 1st, and hardly threatened, but their pitching and defense was good enough for it to hold.
Parker Dunshee (7-1) earned the win going 6 ? innings, striking out eight while allowing five hits and three runs.
"Dunshee was good today — not great,” Walter said. “He competed and he got the win. It’s his seventh win of the year. He’s been our guy.”
Roberts got that final out of the 7th — the flyout to left, then retired the side in order in both the 8th and 9th. He struck out the side in the 9th as the home Wake Forest crowd cheered on lustily.
“I think this is the loudest it’s been at our stadium,” Roberts said. “I’ve never seen the fans get behind us like that. It’s awesome. It’s a recipe for greatness, for sure.”
The series continues at 4 p.m. Saturday with Donnie Sellers (3-2, 3.72) taking the mound for the Deacs against Michael Hearne (2-1, 2.61) for the Irish.