Wilf Thorne

6-run 7th keys Wake game 3 win over Clemson

A big 7th inning coupled with another great start from Connor Johnstone fuels a Wake win at No. 3 Clemson.

CLEMSON, S.C. — The Demon Deacon bats had some pent up energy.

Wake exploded for a six spot in the top of the 7th Saturday to grab an 8-3 victory over No. 3 Clemson (33-8, 16-5) in the series final at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

“Really proud of the guys. We went into the game without Griffin Roberts and without Bruce Steel. We put a freshman at short who had the at-bat of the game,” Wake Forest coach Tom Walter said. “Then we used some freshmen arms down the stretch. It’s says a lot about our team. We can’t do it with the same nine guys and the same four pitchers all year. We’re going to need some people to step up and that happened today.

The Deacs had been shut out for 15-straight innings before grabbing an error-assisted run in the 6th to draw to within 2-1, but then really went to work in the next frame.

Designated hitter Logan Harvey led off the inning with a scorcher though the middle into center field and Jake Mueller got on because of an error on a bunt attempt. Left fielder Jonathan Pryor tried to lay down a bunt early in the count, but then flied out to left for the first out.

Krall reached 103 pitches with the Pryor flyout, and was lifted.

“We liked our chances against their bullpen and thought we would be able to score there,” Walter said. “We just needed to get Krall out of the game. We were able to do that. Their starting pitching was really good today.”

Patrick Frick, who started in the two hole at shortstop for the injured Bruce Steel, then had what Walter labeled the “at bat of the game.”

After getting ahead 2-1, he fouled off four straight offerings from Clemson reliever Ryley Gilliam — then took two pitches wide for a walk to load the bases.

“The huge at-bat in the inning was by Pat Frick. He fought off three or four tough pitches and then walked,” Walter said. “It set the table for Stuart (Fairchild) and Gavin (Sheets).”

Center fielder Stuart Fairchild tied the game with a lined shot up the middle that looked like a replay of Harvey’s shot to start the proceedings.

After another Clemson pitching change, Gavin Sheets deposited a 2-1 offering deep over the fence in left-center field, bouncing off a outer building and skidding off into the stratosphere most likely.

The grand slam — the first of Sheets’ career — gave Wake a 6-2 lead.

“Without having Griffin Roberts available, getting a cushion was huge,” Walter said. “We knew we were going to have to throw some freshmen in big situations they haven’t been in before. We weren’t excited about putting our freshmen in a one-run game, and Gavin gave us that cushion.”

Johnny Aiello singled and Keegan Maronpot hit a gapper to plate the sixth run of the frame, giving Wake a 7-2 lead.

“We finally had that inning where we strung at-bats together. We hadn’t done that much all weekend. Give their starting pitching credit — (Pat) Krall and (Alex) Eubanks were really good.”

Connor Johnstone (6-0) earned the win on the mound for Wake, going six innings. He scattered seven hits and gave up two runs — both earned. He struck out one, and walked just two.

“His fastball is a little better — it’s ticked up a bit. But it’s the addition of the cutter — a real breaking ball that he can throw when he’s behind in the count,” Walter said about Johnstone. “That’s a pitch he’s been getting strikeouts on.”

Freshman Morgan McSweeney got some huge outs in the 7th for the Deacs  

“It was awesome. He comes in with runners at first and second with nobody out, and he’s facing Seth Beer. He gets Seth Beer to pop up, then Ben Breazeale makes the great play on the back pick,” Walter said. “That was a huge play in the game. It was a momentum grabber. Then he gets (Chris) Williams to fly out to left, plus two outs in the next inning.”

Normal mid-week starter Colin Peluse gave up just a single in the 9th as he closed the game.  

“Colin Peluse in the 9th threw the ball really well,” Walter said.  

“The future is bright for our freshman class of arms, and it was good to get them some experience and success against a team like this on the road. We’re going to need them down the road.”

Clemson’s Alex Eubanks likely earned ACC Pitcher of the Week honors with his 12-strikeout complete game shutout performance against the Deacs in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader. Clemson topped Wake 11-0.  

“He was locating. Everything was located away, and he had his breaking ball going. He was throwing four pitches for strikes and throwing to both sides of the plate,” Walter said. “Everything was down. When a guy like that gets a lead, he’s hard to come back on. They played error free baseball that game. If you’re not walking people and not making errors, it’s really tough.”

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