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ACC Tournament Recap: Day Three

Wake Forest Cruises Past Pittsburgh

Rhett Lowder got hit hard a bit early, but still carved through the Pittsburgh lineup over 7 innings in Wake Forest’s 10-2 win on Thursday afternoon. The win clinches Pool A for Wake Forest, who is the first #1 seed to make it to the semi-finals since the new tournament format was implemented in 2017. Pitt’s ACC Tournament comes to an end.

Wake Forest waited just two batters before putting a run on the scoreboard after Lucas Costello doubled to score leadoff man Tommy Hawke from first. Justin Johnson would bring in Costello a few batters later with a sacrifice fly while Pierce Bennett would single to right field to score Nick Kurtz, making the score 3-0 before Pitt even came to the plate.

The Panthers would hit Rhett hard in the first two innings, with Sky Duff just missing his second consecutive lead off home in as many days when he doubled off the wall in right center. Senior first baseman Noah Martinez would double two at-bats later, scoring. They’d get just one more hit off Lowder thanks to a Justin Acal double in the 2nd.

Lowder, who is 13-0 over 15 starts this season, continued to be as advertised. The back-to-back ACC Pitcher of the Year went 7 innings and only gave 3 hits, while striking out 6. All three Pitt hits came within the first 7 hitters of the game before Lowder settled in. The junior right-hander retired the last 11 hitters he faced following back-to-back walks to start fourth inning.

“I came out a little slow,” Lowder told ACC Digital after the game. “I think I had like 40 pitches through the first two innings so I knew I had to figure it out. I kind of found my footing and got comfortable in the 3rd [inning].”

“Rhett does what Rhett does,” said Coach Tom Walter. “He didn’t have his best stuff, didn’t have his good changeup but 7 innings, one run… we’ll take that all day long.”

Brock Wilken hit his 26th home run of the season, which brings his career total to 66—now just three shy of Anthony Maisano and JD Drew’s all-time ACC record of 69. The junior slugger was 3-4 and reached base safely five times to lead the Demon Deacons offense. He finished a triple shy of the cycle.

Walter praised the maturation of his slugger. “Over the last three weeks his at-bats have been phenomenal. You see him laying off breaking balls in the dirt in 3-2 counts where historically sometimes you’d see some chase there and he hasn’t done that recently. He’s done a really good job here over this last almost month of letting the game come to him.”

Dom Popa homered for the second day in a row for the Panthers in the 8th inning off Michael Massey to give Pitt their 2nd run of the game. The junior left fielder had only hit one home run during over 37 games entering this tournament. Danny Corona and Bennett Lee also homered in the game for Wake Forest, while right fielder Pierce Bennett went 3-5 with 2 RBIs.

Wake Forest will play a meaningless game against Notre Dame tomorrow evening to complete pool play having already clinched a spot in the semi-finals on Saturday. Josh Hartle will likely start on Saturday against NC State/Miami for a spot in the ACC Championship game. Pitt ends their season with a 24-30 record following a 1-1 performance in the ACC Tournament.

North Carolina Eliminates Virginia

North Carolina snapped Virginia’s 10-game winning streak on Thursday by a score of 10-2 following an outstanding start on the mound from Jake Knapp. The win means that the Tar Heels will play in the semi-finals on Saturday against the winner of the Clemson/Boston College game that’s scheduled to be played Friday morning. Virginia’s tournament comes to an end with a 1-1 record.

UNC starter Knapp was the star, holding UVA’s prolific lineup to just 5 hits and 1 earned run over 5.2 innings. He left the game with 2 outs in the 6th inning holding a 4-2 lead.

“Knapp was really, really good. His changeup to our left-handed hitters was good. He was located all of his pitches. For him to go into the 6th inning was an impressive performance by him. It felt like we were behind in the count all the time.”

Sophomore reliever Dalton Pence went the rest of the way for the Tar Heels with 3.1 scoreless innings to close out the win.

Tar Heel catcher Tomas Frick went 2-2 with the bases loaded and had 5 RBIs. All of those RBIs came from hits that occurred following an intentional walk of Horvath two batters ahead of Frick.

“The two situations that really created separation in the ballgame were the two times that we [intentionally] walked Horvath,” explained O’Connor. “Both of those times, [we] walked the next batter to set up bases loaded. Those are the at bats that we have buckle down and get a ground ball or a double play. We just didn’t do it.”

Of the eight walks Virginia issued on Thursday, five of them came around to score. On the offensive side, Virginia’s four All-ACC first teamers in O’Farrell, O’Donnell, Gelof, and Teel were a combined 1-14. Second year Ethan Anderson was the standout for the ‘Hoos, going 2-4 with his 11th home run of the year and his second of the ACC Tournament.

North Carolina will play either Clemson or Boston College on Saturday for a spot in ACC Championsion, while Virginia will head back to Charlottesville to await their seeding. Virginia is a virtual lock to host, but questions remain as to whether or not they’ll be a Top 8 national seed.

Miami Holds Off NC State

#4 seed Miami held off a pesky North Carolina State team to win Pool D Thursday night by a score of 4-2. Both teams struggled to score baserunners as they combined to leave 22 runners on base.

Sam Highfill got the start for NC State, but only lasted 3.2 innings before making way to the bullpen with the Wolfpack down 3-2. Closer Justin Lawson provided a huge boost for the beleaguered NC State pitching staff by grinding out 3.1 innings to keep his team in the game. The bullpen as a whole was fantastic for them tonight.

"Lawson was incredible," said NC State coach Elliott Avent said of his closer. "His thumb was cut so he pitched the last two innings with it. I didn't know if he'd be able to keep going and he kept gutting it out."

Twice Miami star third baseman Yohandy Morales came up with the bases loaded and a chance to break the game open. Morales struck out both times in those situations. Edgardo Villegas hit a 2-run home in the 1st inning to get the Canes started, but the Wolfpack answered immediately with a 2-run single by Eli Serrano III to tie the game at 2

The winning run ended up coming from Renzo Gonzalez, who singled in Dominic Pitelli from second base in the 4th inning to make it 3-2 Miami. They'd add an insurance run in the 8th inning and All-ACC closer Andrew Walters retired the final 7 batters of the ball game to shut the door.

North Carolina State, a team firmly on the bubble, now must wait until Selection Monday as their NCAA dreams hang in the balance. Miami will play Friday in a game against Duke that has no bearing on the ACC Tournament before facing #1 Wake Forest in the ACC semifinals on Saturday.

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