WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The bats came alive as the Deacs (38-17, 19-11) topped Pittsburgh 14-4 Saturday afternoon at David F. Couch Ballpark.
The win solidified the No. 3 seed for the Deacs in next week’s ACC Tournament in Louisville, and the series victory over the Panthers will help the Deacs resume as they look to host a NCAA Regional the following week.
“It’s huge when you’re talking about hosting a regional. To be the third-place team in our conference, free and clear — no tiebreaker needed, says a lot,” Wake Forest coach Tom Walter said. “If they are going to put somebody in from our league (instead of Wake) in as a host, they’re going to have to answer for that. I like our chances to host as the third-place team. If we had lost today and finished fourth, I wouldn’t have felt as good about it.”
With the game knotted at 3, the Deacs exploded for nine runs in the bottom of the 5th, including a grand slam home run from right fielder Keegan Maronpot.
“The first two innings we were getting too many balls in the air, working underneath the baseball. That second time around, we wanted to get on top of the baseball and drive the ball,” Walter said. “Obviously, we put together some really good at-bats. Maronpot’s home run capped it, but we strung together several good at-bats.”
The victory helped secure Wake’s eighth ACC series win. They won all five conference series at home, and they rebounded from the Friday night late-inning collapse against Pitt where they lost 5-4. Seemingly every time this team has faced adversity, they’ve answered the call.
“It’s a veteran club,” Walter said. “We have some guys who have been through the wringer and played in some big games. We’re not going to panic. We’re going to keep coming.”
“You have to hold serve at home. You can’t afford to lose series at home. With this win today, we won eight of our 10 conference series, and every series at home. It’s been a good year, but there’s more baseball to play. We started the year 1-3 in Houston, so to finish the way we did you have to be pleased with that.”
Maronpot had went through a 0-for-22 stretch that ended Friday night with a base hit. Saturday he followed up with a two home run performance.
“Anytime we get production out of the 7-8-9 spots, it’s makes us really dangerous,” Walter said. “We know 3, 4, and 5 will get theirs, but anytime you can get balance and make pitchers work. It stretches our lineup and puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”
Walter said Maronpot had been getting to the park early in recent days to get in extra work. Walter said he compared the run to that of a pendulum.
“It’s going to swing back, brother,” Walter said he told Maronpot. “You just have to stay confident in what you do.”
“It was important to make light of it. We were laughing about it,” Walter said.
“There’s so much failure in baseball, that confidence builds pretty quick,” Maronpot said. “The base hit yesterday, then after the first one today I was feeling pretty good. Just wanted to keep a simple game plan and barrell a ball up.”
The grand slam in the 5th was especially satisfying for Maronpot.
“It feels really good anytime you can help your team win,” he said. “It was a part of a big momentum shift in the game.”
Other offensive stars for the Deacs included Jake Mueller, who went 3-for-6 at the plate with two runs scored, Stuart Fairchild, who was 3-for-5 at the plate with three runs and Gavin Sheets, who was 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
Sheets now has 77 RBIs on the season, which is good for the 5th best performance by a Deac in a season.
Wake also set the record for most strikeouts in a season, as they broke the 1998 record and now have 496 as a staff.
Wake will begin play either Wednesday or Thursday in the ACC Tournament in Louisville against No. 10 seed Georgia Tech (27-26, 11-19). They will face No. 6 seed Miami (29-26, 16-13) either Thursday or Friday. Specific days and times will be available Sunday morning.