WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Saturday is the final day of the ACC baseball regular season, and we still don’t know the Deacs seed or who will play in a pod with them at the conference tournament in Louisville.
A topsy-turvy Friday turned much of what we thought we knew on its head — highlighted locally with Pitt’s come-from-behind 5-4 victory over Wake at David F. Couch Ballpark.
“It’s a disappointing loss. We had chances to extend the lead, and just couldn’t punch runs across there,” Wake coach Tom Walter said. “If we play clean baseball in the 9th inning, they don’t score.”
A towering home run to right field by Gavin Sheets led off a three-run 5th inning gave Wake a 4-2 lead. The home run went 408 feet and bounced off the word “Deacon” about five feet below the very top of the scoreboard.
If Sheets gets a bill from Wake after he signs his first big league contract, it wouldn’t be that surprising. After seeing him pound baseballs off the scoreboard on consecutive nights, it’s clear someone will have to pay for the damage.
It was Sheet’s team (and ACC) leading 18th dinger of the season. That was the Deacs 91st homer of the season - a program record.
Pitt scored once more in the top of the 6th to claw to within 4-3, and Walter inserted closer Griffin Roberts for the final two frames.
The Panthers collected just one hit in the 9th, but a hit batter and two errors aided them is plating two runs to grab the lead.
“We don’t need to throw behind the runner in that situation, and if we do throw the ball behind the runner there we have to block the baseball,” Walter said. “These are college kids and they make mistakes. I was disappointed in our at-bats in the 9th.”
It was a must-win for the Panthers as they needed to win their final two against Wake to have any opportunity of advancing to next-week’s ACC Tournament.
“They threw all their pitchers today. They’re playing this like it’s a conference tournament format where you have to win,” Walter said. “They’re playing every game like it’s their last. We need to come out with more energy.”
Tempers flared in both the top of the 5th and 8th. Pitt’s P.J. DeMeo tried to drag a bunt down the first base line for a hit, but Sellers fielded it and applied a hard tag on DeMeo — sending him sprawling to the ground. Words were exchanged, but cooler heads prevailed.
“They’ve done that in other series. I’ve seen that on video before,” Walter said about the chippy play from Pitt. “I wasn’t surprised. We just have to be better than that.”
Sheets was in the middle of both plays, taking what looked like an elbow shot as a Panther tried to reach first in the 8th.
“Donnie was playing the game hard. The biggest thing from me was to get in the middle and not let anything happen. I was protecting our guy. I wanted to stop it from going any further,” he said. “I know I got hit. I didn’t appreciate it. Two teams playing the game hard. I doubt it was intentional.
“You can’t let things get out of hand. I wasn’t going to take it any further, but wanted to let him know I didn’t appreciate it.”
Sellers gave up two 1st-inning runs, but then settled in to pitch seven total, striking our 7 and walking just one.
“He was good. He hung a 2-0 fastball and the kid didn’t miss it. But other than that, I thought Donnie threw the ball well,” Walter said. “We needed to win that game for him. We should score more than four runs on a day like this.”
The Deacs conclude the series, and the regular season against Pittsburgh at noon Saturday. Connor Johnstone (7-0, 3.26) will start for Wake against Pitt’s Dan Hammer (3-5, 5.14).
“You think about it for 30 minutes, and then you get over it. You have to come out and get tomorrow’s game to take the series,” Sheets said. “It’s a big game for both of us. They’re playing to get in the ACC Tournament and we’re playing to get a No. 3 seed and host a regional. Tomorrow is going to be a big game, but we'll be ready to go.”
Though it was originally thought that Wake had secured the No. 3 seed, there is a chance they could slip to 4th if the Deacs lose to Pitt, Virginia defeats Georgia Tech and Boston College complete the sweep against Notre Dame.