Trailing by five and feeling the effects of dropping a tightly-contested series at No. 2 Louisville two days earlier, it was Wake Forest’s ability to avoid a big inning — while also putting up some crooked numbers of its own — that ultimately earned the Deacons a season sweep over the reigning national champions.
No. 20 Wake Forest scored multiple runs in four different innings, including a 10-run sixth inning, in order to take down Coastal Carolina 19-9 on Tuesday night at Couch Ballpark. Playing in front of a season-best 1,210 home fans, the Deacons (24-10) pounded out 21 hits and blasted four home runs.
Wake Forest junior Stuart Fairchild led the way for the Deacons, as the center fielder hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning, which was followed up just one inning later with a grand slam to a nearly identical spot just over the right-field fence in the sixth.
Defensively, Wake Forest allowed the Chanticleers to jump out to an early 5-0 lead after they scored three runs in the third and two in the fourth. After that, however, the Deacons limited Coastal Carolina to just a single run in each of the next four innings and stranded six runners in scoring position.
“Early in the game we were kind of dead, there wasn’t a whole lot of momentum going for us and we were behind,” said Fairchild, who finished with a career-high seven RBIs. “So that definitely helped swing the momentum, just having that huge inning. That was big for us.”
Wake Forest right-hander Drew Loepprich started the game for the Deacons. After facing the minimum through two innings, the junior surrendered three runs in the third, and was responsible for both of the runs in the fourth, before getting pulled from the game by head coach Tom Walter.
Five different Wake Forest relievers, including Carter Bach, Bobby Hearn and Chris Farish, were able to keep the Chanticleers (20-12-1) at bay over the next few innings, allowing the Deacons’ offense just enough time to finally get rolling.
Following a two-RBI double from sophomore Ben Steel in the fourth inning, Wake Forest scored three runs in the fifth off of Fairchild’s first home run of the night, cutting the margin to 6-5 and setting the table for the 10-run sixth.
After a sacrifice fly from Coastal Carolina junior Billy Cooke stretched the Chanticleers’ lead back to two, Wake Forest scored 10 runs on nine hits and two errors in the bottom of sixth inning, as eight of the first nine hitters that came to the plate eventually scored.
While Fairchild’s grand slam that bounced off the top of the right-field fence was the headliner, Wake Forest junior Gavin Sheets also had a solo home run, while senior Johnathan Pryor hit both an RBI single and RBI double in the same inning.
“You’re always worried when you are down 5-0 against the defending national champions and a really good club, but I figured we’d score,” Walter said.
“In (the sixth) inning, we finally put quality at-bats back-to-back-to-back-to-back, which is what we need to do. We talk all the time about building innings, and you have to put quality at-bats together to do that.”
Wake Forest added four more runs in the eighth inning, thanks to an RBI single from Sheets and a three-run blast from sophomore Johnny Aiello that gave the Deacons a season-high 19 runs. Wake Forest entered the week leading the ACC in runs scored (275) and slugging percentage (.518).
On the mound, Hearn (1-0) earned the victory for the Deacons.
The redshirt freshman, who was making his collegiate debut after missing all of last season and the first part of this season due to various injuries, struck out three hitters in 12/3 innings while operating under a 30-pitch limit.
“I’m really happy for Bobby, because he has put so much work in and he is such a good teammate and worker,” Walter said. “I’m just so happy for him to go out there and get some big outs for us today and get in the win column.”
Wake Forest is back in action tonight, when they travel to Elon to take on the Phoenix at 6 p.m.