WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Regional host Wake Forest jumped on UMBC early and used a solid effort from starting pitcher Connor Johnstone to keep the Retrievers at bay en route to an 11-3 win Friday evening at David F. Couch Ballpark.
The victory moved the Demon Deacons (40-18) to a showdown today with West Virginia. The Mountaineers trounced Maryland 9-1 earlier in the day in the first game of the Winston-Salem Regional.
Maryland and UMBC will play in an elimination game today at 2p.m.
"Obviously we played a really, really good Wake Forest team," UMBC coach Bob Mumma said. "I felt like our kids battled really hard. They did a good job stringing some hits together in a couple innings, certainly got off to a good start in the second inning. We battled back and put a few zeros on the board but credit to those guys."
Wake Forest created breathing room early. The Demon Deacons scored six runs in the bottom of the second inning, keyed by a throwing error from UMBC starter Michael Austin and a three-run double off of the bat of Jake Mueller. Four of the runs scored with two outs.
UMBC responded in the top of the third as Andrew Casall hit a two-run homer over the wall in left.
Another run was added in the top of the sixth but the Retrievers missed an opportunity to narrow the gap further. Zack Bright was picked off of first base with only one out in the inning. Collin Stack followed with a single but Wake Forest right fielder Keegan Maronpot threw out Hunter Dolsh at home plate by a wide margin to end the threat.
Wake Forest then pushed across four runs in the bottom of the sixth to extend its lead to 10-3 and was never seriously threatened again.
"We really felt that if we could have pushed a couple more runs across there that was going to change the game," Casall said. "It just didn't work out that way."
Austin took the loss for UMBC to drop to 4-3 on the season. The righty pitched 41/3 innings and allowed six runs, all earned, on six hits. He walked two and struck out two.
Meanwhile, Johnstone picked up the victory to improve to 8-0. He allowed 10 hits in 72/3 innings. The right-hander allowed three runs, two earned and struck out seven while walking one.
The Retrievers (23-24) remain winless in NCAA tournament play in program history.
UMBC will take on Maryland Saturday at 2 p.m. in an elimination game with the winner to take on the loser of the West Virginia/Wake Forest matchup. The schools faced each other once during the regular season with the Terps winning, 6-2, at College Park on May 9.
"I think anytime you have played a team before you know a little bit more about their hitters, more what they like to do," Mumma said. "Certainly they are a great team. They have had a lot of success in the tournament of the last few years. I think our guys will look forward to the challenge.
"It will be the same thing we have talked about all year long. We want to go out [Saturday] and try to play a good ballgame and give ourselves a chance to win. We will see if we can find a way late to win the game and let's see if we can stick around here in Winston-Salem as long as we possibly can."