TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Bruce Steel exploded for two home runs and Griffin Roberts earned an eight-out save as the Deacs topped Florida State Sunday 10-9 at Dick Howser Stadium.
The win gave Wake (35-16, 17-10) its first series win at FSU (33-20, 12-14) since 1993 and put them in sole possession of third place in the ACC standings.
“It’s huge. We’re in contention to host, and this is one of the series they will look at,” Wake Forest coach Tom Walter said. “You kind of need to have a series win on the road over an established team in order to get a host seed, so this will help.”
Roberts entered the fray with two on and just one out in the bottom of the 7th, after the Noles had already plated two runs and put two more runners aboard. Roberts kept extra damage to a minimum in the 7th, then allowed just one base runner in the final two innings.
“Griffin was just awesome today, especially after throwing as many pitches as he did yesterday and come back and command the zone like he did today was so impressive,” Walter said. “He’s taken a huge step forward this weekend as far as being ‘the dude’ down the stretch. When he’s throwing the ball like he has the last two days, he’s as good as there is.”
Connor Johnstone, who has been consistently impressive as a Sunday starter in rubber matchups this season, had his shortest stint of the season, lasting just 3.1 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits (just three were earned runs).
“CJ was due for one of those, and we picked him up. You’re not always going to get seven innings out of CJ like we’ve been getting,” Walter said. “Chris Farish came in and got us two big outs, then John McCarren came in and got five big outs. We patched it together. I was proud of the way we stayed composed and competed in a tough place to play.”
The Deacs started off well against FSU starter Drew Parrish, who struggled through a 41-pitch first inning where he allowed two hits and three walks — all on 3-2 counts. Patrick Frick flied out to left on a full count to leave the bases full.
Florida State responded with a three-run second-inning outburst, aided by a dropped flyball by Wake right fielder Patrick Frick. A triple by Taylor Walls drove in two, then a perfectly executed bunt hit by Dylan Busby drove him in.
Wake reclaimed the lead in the top of the 3rd with a three-run monster home run shot to left field by Bruce Steel. Facing the shift, Gavin Sheets attempted to bunt for a hit, but it went foul. He eventually led off with a single through the right side. Johnny Aiello was plunked on his foot on to put two men on with one out for Steel. Steel absolutely crushed the 0-1 pitch for his 11th home run of the season.
The Deacs tacked on three more runs in the top of the 4th to take an 8-3 lead. Jonathan Pryor walked, then moved to third on a hit-and-run single by Jake Mueller. Fairchild singled to plate Pryor, then Sheets walked to load the bases with nobody out. Breazeale hit into a 4-6-3 double play that scored Mueller, then Aiello drove a 2-0 pitch into right field to score Fairchild.
Three Connor Johnstone walks got the Deacs in trouble in the bottom of the 4th, as Florida State got three runs back. Chris Farish got two strikeouts in relief, but allowed a 2-RBI single to close the Wake lead to 8-6.
A second blast by Steel gave the Deacs a 9-6 advantage in the top of the 7th.
Steel finished 2-for-4 at the plate with two home runs and five RBIs.
Nick DiPonzio was plunked, then later scored on a pair of hits by Logan Harvey and Jonathan Pryor which extended the Wake lead to 10-6.
Harvey was 3-for-5 from the plate. Pryor was 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs scored and a RBI. Jake Mueller also had a pair of base hits and scored twice.
The Deacs return to the field Tuesday against Appalachian State at 6 p.m. at Keeter Stadium (19-32) in Shelby. Wake then finishes the regular season with a three-game home conference series against Pittsburgh (22-25, 8-19). The Panthers will be fighting for one of the final spots in the ACC Tournament, which takes 12 of the 14 conference teams.
Wake has a one-game lead for third place, in front of both Clemson and Virginia who are 16-11. Clemson plays a three-game series at North Carolina State next weekend while UVA plays at Georgia Tech.