No. 1 Wake Forest opens Winston-Salem Baseball Super Regional with 5-4 win

By Ryan Sosic and Andrew Kovar

Winston-Salem, NC – In front of another record-breaking, sellout crowd at David F. Couch Ballpark, the Wake Forest baseball team claimed the first game of the Winston-Salem Super Regional with a 5-4 victory over Alabama on Saturday afternoon.

Deacon Nation came out in support of their Deacs as David F. Couch Ballpark recorded an attendance of 3,903, the highest attendance at The Couch ever and third official sellout in Wake Forest Baseball history.

The Demon Deacons punched their ticket to the Super Regional round for the third time since super regionals began in 1999 (1999 and 2017) after going a perfect 3-0 in the Winston-Salem Regional last weekend, outscoring Maryland and George Mason by an overall tally of 48-7.  

After breaking the program record for wins in its opening game of the regional last Friday, Wake Forest (51-10) has broken the program record for regular season wins, ACC wins, ACC series wins and overall wins this season. Additionally, the Deacs became the first team in Wake Forest history to have 50 or more wins in a single season last week. 

The Demon Deacons continue to lead the nation in wins (51) while having the least amount of losses among Division I teams (10).

Heading into Saturday’s contest, the Demon Deacons held a 38-4 record when they score first. They improved on this mark as they were able to tally the first three runs of the game. Tommy Hawke sent the first pitch he saw off the scoreboard in right center before Justin Johnson doubled Wake Forest’s lead with a solo shot of his own in the second. Pierce Bennett singled and came around to score on a wild pitch to increase the Demon Deacon advantage to 3-0 after three frames. 

After Alabama came back to tie the game, Danny Corona hit a clutch two-out solo home run over the right field wall in the fifth, putting the Deacs in front for good. An inning later, Adam Cecere had another clutch two-out hit up the middle, scoring Brock Wilken and putting the Deacs up 5-3 into the final three frames.

Two-time ACC Pitcher of the Year Rhett Lowder earned his nation-leading and program-record breaking 15th win of 2023 and 30th victory of his career after finishing with six strikeouts in 6.1 innings on Saturday. 

Lowder ended his start strong, retiring eight of the last nine batters he faced, highlighted by perfect 1-2-3 innings in the fifth and sixth. Additionally, he walked just one batters, the 12th game this season the right hander has conceded less than two walks in an outing. 

The Albemarle, N.C. native is the only pitcher in the nation with a perfect 15-0 record this season and owns the Wake Forest program record for single-season wins as the junior passed Kyle Sleeth (2002) with his 15th win of the season. 

In the seventh, Lowder turned the ball over Sean Sullivan. The righthander came in and closed the door with a runner on base, striking out back-to-back batters in the seventh. 

With a one-run lead in the ninth, Sullivan finished the game in style, punching out all three batters he faced in the inning to help the Deacs to the 5-4 victory. He ended the afternoon with seven of the eight batters he got out coming via a strikeout to earn his third save of the season. 

Sullivan now has 108 strikeouts in 64.2 innings this season. With that total, Wake Forest now has three players in the top 10 in single-season strikeouts:

Wake Forest Single Season Strikeouts

  • 2. Rhett Lowder (2023) – 131
  • 4. Josh Hartle (2023) – 120
  • T10. Sean Sullivan (2023) – 108

How It Happened

  • After Bennett Lee erased a runner coming off first base, Rhett Lowder settled in getting the next batter to pop out to second base before getting a flyout to Tommy Hawke in center.
  • In the bottom of the inning, Hawke took the first pitch of the game and blasted it off the scoreboard in right center to give the Deacs the early 1-0 lead.
  • Lowder took the one-run lead into the second.
    • He got his first strikeout of the game to open up the inning.
    • For the second out of the inning, Lowder froze the batter on a backdoor slider to get his second strikeout of the frame.
    • A popup in foul ground to Lee put up another zero in the run column.
  • After winning Most Outstanding Player in the Winston-Salem Regional last week, Justin Johnson started off his Super Regional with a bang, sending one over the right center wall to increase the Deacs’ lead to 2-0.
    • Pierce Bennett followed that up with a single, landing in front of the right fielder.
    • Bennett moved up 90 feet on a flyout to center.
    • On the next at-bat, he moved to third on a groundout to the right side.
      • He scored on the third pitch to Marek Houston on a wild pitch that went all the way to the backstop.
  • Inheriting the 3-0 lead for his third inning on the mound, Lowder got the first batter to popout to second base.
    • A lineout to left field and a groundout to third to finish off the inning.
  • Leading 3-1 in the bottom of the third, Hawke grabbed his second hit of the game, singling to right over the glove of the second baseman.
    • Hawke moved over to second two batters later on a groundout.
  • Holding the two-run edge entering the fourth, Lowder got an easy flyout to center to get things started.
    • He recorded his third punchout of the game to get the second batter of the inning, freezing him on a 3-2 breaking ball.
    • Lowder got his fourth punchout of the game to end the frame.
  • Adam Cecere reached base on a hit by pitch in the bottom of the fourth.
  • The 3-3 game resumed in the top of the fifth.
    • Lowder got a groundout to third before getting a strikeout and a popout to Wilken in foul territory just behind third.
  • In the bottom of the fifth, Danny Corona untied the game, launching a ball over the right field fence, putting the Deacs in front, 4-3.
    • It was Wake Forest’s third home run of the game, all over the right or right center wall.
  • With the Demon Deacons back in front, Lowder got three-straight flyouts to retire the side in order.
    • He was on a streak of seven-straight retired at this point of the game.
  • After Wilken reached second on an error to lead off the inning, he moved up to third on a flyout to right.
    • Cecere brought him home on a single up the middle to increase the Wake Forest lead to 5-3.
    • With a new pitcher in the game for the Crimson Tide, Lee singled up the middle to put two runners on.
  • Lowder came back out for the seventh with a two-run lead.
    • He fanned his sixth batter of the game to lead off the inning.
    • After retiring the first batter, Sean Sullivan took over on the mound.
      • Sullivan struckout the first and then froze the hitter on an inside pitch to finish the frame.
  • Leading 5-3 entering the eighth, Sullivan held the lead, recording two more punchouts to his total.
  • Coming out for the ninth, Sullivan closed the door on game one, striking out the side in order to push his strikeout total for the day to seven in just 2.2 innings of work while also moving into the top 10 in single-season program history in strikeouts.
    • The Deacs captured game one over Alabama, 5-4.

Words from Walter
“Heck of a ballgame. Two really good teams battling it out there. I’m so proud of our guys. Rhett Lowder did what Rhett does and that’s giving us a chance to win. He made big pitches when he needed to. Sully comes in with one out and a guy on first base and gets two big strikeouts before closing it out for us. These two guys to my left (Rhett Lowder and Sean Sullivan) were certainly the story today. 

“We did just enough offensively. Holman is really good. We had our hands full with him all day today. He was landing both his breaking balls and mixing it up really well. I was very impressed with how he threw the ball. We got a two-out RBI from Cec. We got a big two-strike home run from Danny Corona. Another two-strike homer from Justin Johnson. A homer from Tommy Hawke to start the game. Pierce Bennett with a great baserunning play to tag up from first and score on the wild pitch. We played really sound defense today. These two guys to my left just made big pitch after big pitch. I’m really proud of this club and looking forward to getting out there tomorrow.”

Winston-Salem Super Regional Schedule

  • Game 1: No. 1 Wake Forest defeated No. 16 Alabama, 5-4
  • Game 2: No. 1 Wake Forest vs. No. 16 Alabama  | Sunday. June 11 |12PM | TBD 
  • Game 3 (if necessary): No. 1 Wake Forest vs. No. 16 Alabama  | Monday. June 12 | TBD | TBD 

Standout Stats
Overall, this year’s season attendance of 57,814 fans set a new program record. This includes record-breaking crowds during the NCAA Regional opener against George Mason Friday night and its final game of the weekend against the Patriots when the Deacs had a sellout crowd of 3,823 fans in each game. For the third time this postseason, the Deacs had a capacity crowd at David F. Couch Ballpark Saturday against No. 16 Alabama.

After breaking the program record for wins in its opening game of the regional last Friday, Wake Forest has broken the program record for regular season wins, ACC wins, ACC series wins and overall wins this season. Additionally, the Deacs became the first team in Wake Forest history to have 50 or more wins in a single season last week. 

The Demon Deacons continue to lead the nation in wins (51) while having the least amount of losses among Division I teams (10).

Wake Forest Baseball 40-Win Seasons

  • 2023- 51 overall wins (45 regular season, six postseason)
  • 2002 – 47 overall wins (42 regular season, five postseason) 
  • 1999 – 47 overall wins (39 regular season, eight postseason)
  • 2001- 44 overall wins (37 regular season, seven postseason)
  • 2017 – 43 overall wins (38 regular season wins, five postseason) 
  • 1998- 43 overall wins (36 regular season, seven postseason)
  • 2000 – 42 overall wins, (38 regular season, three postseason) 
  • 2022 – 41 overall wins (39 regular season, two postseason)

This year’s squad became the fastest team in program history and the first team in the nation this year to reach the 40-win mark with its 14-4 win against UNC Greensboro on May 9. 

Wake Forest Fastest to 40 Wins

  • 2023: 47 games
  • 2002: 49 games
  • 1999: 53 games
  • 2001: 55 games
  • 2022: 58 games
  • 2017: 58 games
  • 2000: 59 games
  • 1998: 61 games

In The Spotlight
Two-time ACC Pitcher of the Year Rhett Lowder earned his nation-leading and program-record breaking 15th win of 2023 and 30th victory of his career after finishing with six strikeouts in 6.1 innings on Saturday. 

Lowder ended his start strong, retiring eight of the last nine batters he faced, highlighted by perfect 1-2-3 innings in the fifth and sixth. 

Additionally, Lowder walked just one batters, the 12th game this season the right hander has conceded less than two walks in an outing. 

Lowder is the only pitcher in the nation with a perfect 15-0 record this season.  

Lowder now owns the Wake Forest program record for single-season wins as the junior passed Kyle Sleeth (2002) with his 15th win of the season. 

Wake Forest Single Season Wins
1. Rhett Lowder 2023 15
2. Kyle Sleeth 2002 14
3.  Mike MacDougal1999 13 
    John Hendricks 1998 13 
5. Scott Siemon 1999 12 
6. Rhett Lowder 2022 11 
    Scott Siemon 2000 11 
    Moe Bauer 1950 11 

Lowder’s 131 strikeouts this season moves him into the second in single-season history, passing Griffin Roberts (2018) with six punchouts on Saturday. 

Wake Forest Single Season Strikeouts
1. Mike Buddie 1992 138
2. Rhett Lowder 2023 131
3. Griffin Roberts 2018 130
4. Josh Hartle 2023 120
5. Mike MacDougal 1999 117
6. Kyle Sleeth 2002 113
7. Parker Dunshee 2017 111
    John Hendricks 1998 111
9. Mark Seaver 1996 109
10. Sean Sullivan 2023 108
     Ryan Cusick 2021 108

Lowder is now in sole possession of the third most in career wins by a Wake Forest pitcher. Additionally, the righthander’s 30 wins are the most victories among active pitchers in Division I baseball. 

Wake Forest Career Wins
1. John Hendricks (1996-99)- 34 
2. Kyle Sleeth (2001-03)- 31 
3. Rhett Lowder (2021-Pres.)- 30
4. Frank Humber (1986-89)- 29 
5.  Parker Dunshee (2014-17)- 28 
6.  Scott Siemon (1998-01)- 25  
     Mike MacDougal (1997-99)- 25 

Additionally, with six strikeouts tonight, Lowder passed John Hendricks (1996-99) on the career strikeout list as the Albemarle, N.C. native is now 17 punchouts away from breaking another program record. This mark is good for fourth among active pitchers in Division I baseball. 

Wake Forest Career Strikeouts
1. Parker Dunshee 2014-17 330
2. Rhett Lowder 2021-Pres. 313
2. John Hendricks1996-99 312
4. Mike MacDougal1997-99 288
5. Buddy Jenkins 1987-91 277
6. Kyle Sleeth 2001-03 271
7. Frank Humber 1986-89 266
8.  Ross Atkins 1992-95 250
9. Dave Bush 1999-02 249
10. Tim Cooney 2010-12 235
      Mike Buddie 1990-92 235

This season, the two-time reigning ACC Pitcher of the Year has accumulated a 1.92 ERA in 108.0 innings to go along with a career-high 131 strikeouts. 

The Albemarle, N.C. native has already received multiple accolades for his historic 2023 season:

  • 2023 ACC Pitcher of the Year
    • Second pitcher in conference history to win back-to-back honors
  • 2023 Collegiate Baseball First Team All-American
  • 2023 National Pitcher of the Year Finalist
  • 2023 Dick Howser Trophy Finalist
  • 2023 NCBWA District 4 Player of the Year
  • 2023 First Team All-ACC
  • 2023 First Team CSC Academic All-American 
  • 2023 Winston-Salem Regional All-Tournament Team
  • 2023 Golden Spikes Award Semifinalist

Lowder finished the regular season as the conference’s leader in ERA (1.73), wins (12), innings pitched (88.2) and strikeouts (108). In ACC play, Lowder also led the conference in those same categories. 

Dating back to last season, Lowder has allowed three earned runs or less in 31 of his last 33 starts and has gone at least six innings in 30 starts.

Sean Sullivan induced the final eight outs of the game to earn his third save of the season. Sullivan now has 108 strikeouts in 64.2 innings this season. With that total, Wake Forest now has three players in the top 10 in single-season strikeouts:

Wake Forest Single Season Strikeouts

  • 2. Rhett Lowder (2023) – 131
  • 4. Josh Hartle (2023) – 120
  • T10. Sean Sullivan (2023) – 108

On Deck
Wake Forest looks to clinch its spot in Omaha for the first time since 1955 on Sunday, June 11 in game two of the Winston-Salem Super Regional against Alabama at noon inside David F. Couch Ballpark. 

TV designations will also be announced at a later time. 

Stay tuned to Wake Forest’s social media accounts (@WakeBaseball) for the latest updates and information. 

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