WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — It was yet another historic night at David F. Couch Ballpark as the Deacs continue to set records in this magical season.
Starting pitcher Parker Dunshee battled through less-than-perfect stuff to set the all-time strikeout record — earning the victory as the Deacs topped Pittsburgh 7-4 Thursday night to set the program record for most ACC wins in a season.
The win, coupled with losses by Virginia and Clemson, also assured the Deacs (37-16, 18-10) of no worse than a No. 4 seed in the ACC Tournament that begins Tuesday in Louisville, Kentucky.
“That’s big for us. Having that tie-breaker advantage. Also not playing on Tuesday is a big advantage,” Wake Forest coach Tom Walter said. “We’d rather have a little more rest for our pitching, plus you can go 1-1 and still advance. If you’re a 2 or a 3 seed in your pool, you can’t go 1-1 and advance. It’s a big advantage to help us get to the semifinals.”
Dunshee was pushed around a bit by the Pittsburgh (22-29, 8-20) offense early, as the Panthers scored twice in both the 1st and 3rd. His pitch count stood at 78 pitches thru three.
“Parker didn’t have his best stuff, and I was worried about that after last week. We had him on the board Sunday, and it kind of changed his routine,” Walter said. “In the back of his mind, getting that strikeout record it’s possible he was over-throwing a little bit. He just wasn’t himself and wasn’t in sync. But he broke the strikeout record and he got the win. He didn’t pitch great, but I can’t remember the last time he’s had two straight bad outings, so I look forward to seeing him pitch in the conference tournament.”
Though he never threw a perfect inning, Dunshee was more efficient in the 4th and 5th, and claimed the all-time Wake Forest strikeout record with No. 313 in the top of the 5th before handing off the baton to Colin Peluse out of the bullpen.
Peluse allowed just one hit and one walk in three innings.
“Colin Peluse was outstanding tonight. He walked the first guy on four pitches, then settles down and cruises. The thing we love about Colin is that his fastball command is really good. He locates the ball well in the zone,” Walter said. “For a freshman, he’s got no heartbeat. The world could be crumbling down around him, and you wouldn’t know it. We had to had somebody to bridge from our starters to Griffin.”
“It was my job to get in there, pound strikes and keep the game where it was,” Peluse said.
The Deacs cobbled together four runs in the bottom of the 2nd of a pair of hits, two walks, two hit batters and a wild pitch. Wake catcher Ben Breazeale gave the Deacs another lead with a solo shot off the scoreboard in right-center field in the bottom of the 3rd.
A little bit of small ball led to the final two scores for the Deacs, as stolen bases by Jake Mueller and Nick DiPonzio prefaced two-out RBIs.
“It was a big momentum shift in the 7th and 8th innings. Two outs and nobody on both times we get a runner on and steal a base leading to a two-out RBI,” Walter said. “That changed the complexion of that last inning.
“Those were huge runs. Good teams can beat you in different ways. We’re not always going to beat you with the home run. Today, we had solid defense, some stolen bases and a couple of clutch RBIs.”
Mueller had three hits in five at-bats, and Breazeale was 2-for-4 at the plate with two runs scored.
Wake now has a stranglehold on the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament. They are two full games in front of Clemson and Virginia with two games remaining for all three clubs. The win Thursday assured no worse than the No. 4 seed and a win Friday can lock up the No. 3 spot. The Deacs are set to start Donnie Sellers (3-5, 4.39) against Pitt’s Josh Falk (3-7, 3.75). First pitch is set for 6 p.m., with the series finale slated for a noon start on Saturday.