WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — With thunderstorms in the area, it was a race against the clock for Maryland baseball and Wake Forest. The second-seeded Terps and top overall seed Demon Deacons needed to have their game start before 11 p.m in order to play Saturday night. But once the news broke that the game would begin just before the deadline, it was jubilation in Winston-Salem, with the Demon Deacons fired up for revenge against the team that eliminated them from the College Park Regional a year prior.
After a nearly five-hour delay, Wake Forest came out firing. Junior right-handed pitcher Rhett Lowder got the nod and wasted no time getting to work, mowing down the top of Maryland’s order quickly.
Then, Terps senior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean was welcomed to an electrified David F. Couch Ballpark by a first-inning barrage that saw the Demon Deacons leap out to a 4-0 lead.
By the time Maryland figured out Lowder, it was too late, as it was unable to match Wake Forest’s offensive explosion in a 21-6 loss that ended in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The result moved the Demon Deacons to 2-0 in their home regional and placed the Terps on the brink of elimination. Maryland will face George Mason on Sunday at 2 p.m. The loser of that game will be sent home.
The Terps were outplayed early Saturday. When they tried to make contact, they’d whiff. When they tried to work a walk, they would be caught looking. And when they did put a barrel on the ball, the Demon Deacon outfielders had the range to snag it.
Even after a clean second inning, Dean continued to get barreled up by the middle of the order. Redshirt junior second baseman Justin Johnson and redshirt junior right fielder Pierce Bennett, who both contributed to Wake Forest’s string of three straight run-scoring hits in the first inning, tallied a pair of RBI knocks to put the Demon Deacons up six runs in the third.
Lowder had a perfect game going through 3 2⁄3 innings until Terps senior third baseman Nick Lorusso broke the ice for his team with a solo home run. His blast broke the single-season program record for home runs, set by Bubba Alleyne in 2022.
But Maryland’s pitching couldn't hold down the ever-dangerous Wake Forest lineup. In the fifth, Dean surrendered two hits that forced him out of the game, and redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Nigel Belgrave was brought in. Belgrave couldn't record a single out in his appearance, allowing a walk and two RBI singles that expanded the Wake Forest lead to eight.
The Terps got their second baserunner in the seventh via a single by junior shortstop Matt Shaw, and Lorusso promptly launched his second home run of the game to cut the Wake Forest lead to six. Lowder allowed the next two batters to reach base, ending his night with two men on and no outs.
Even after Lowder was pulled, however, the Demon Deacons’ pitching staff continued to deal. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Michael Massey shut down the Terps’ rally with three strikeouts.
From that point on, the rest of the game was nothing more than a formality, with junior right-handed pitcher Nate Haberthier allowing four straight free passes and freshman right-hander Caleb Estes allowing four runs to score in his second-ever pitching appearance. When all was said and done, the Terps allowed six runs in the seventh inning, including a whopping six walks and two hit batters.
After Maryland sophomore designated hitter Ian Petrutz hit a long three-run home run in the top of the eighth inning, Wake Forest answered with another six-run frame — highlighted by a grand slam by sophomore designated hitter Danny Corona — to silence any ounce of positive momentum in the Maryland dugout and put the finishing touches on a 15-run victory.
Three things to know.
1. Rhett Lowder was special. Lowder, a top prospect in the upcoming MLB draft and the best pitcher in Division I in terms of earned run average, was dominant Saturday night. In six innings of work, his final line was three runs allowed on three hits with 11 strikeouts. It took until the seventh inning for the Terps to collect their second baserunner, and Lorusso’s two homers were the only hits that generated runs off Lowder.
2. The middle of Wake Forest’s order performed. Dean could not figure out the middle of the Demon Deacons’ order. Junior infielder Brock Wilken, Johnson and Bennett combined for seven hits and six runs batted in against Dean. Johnson was a home run away from the cycle, which was narrowly missed on a long flyout in the sixth inning.
3. Win twice or go home. The Terps haven’t been eliminated yet, but they need to run the table to make it to a super regional. First up is a matchup with local foe George Mason, which took down Northeastern, 11-3, on Saturday. The winner of that game earns a rematch with the Demon Deacons later in the day, and if they win that matchup, an additional winner-take-all game will be played Monday. The Terps have also burned through both of their aces, and freshman left-handed pitcher Kyle McCoy is unavailable this weekend.