WINSTON-SALEM – Wake Forest rallied for all five of its runs in the bottom of the ninth, as Gardner-Webb saw a 4-0 evaporate and lost, 5-4, at Hooks Stadium.
The Deacons (8-4) had just three hits heading into the bottom of the ninth, but rallied against Bulldog reliever Wes Cogdill – who had pitched masterfully since the second inning. Back-to-back singles from Evan Ocheltree and Eric Williams started the rally – then Cogdill issued a five-pitch walk to No. 8 hitter Cory Hindel to load the bases.
Cogdill exited after that free pass, and GWU went to righty Tim Thomas. Tyler Smith poked a pinch hit single through the right side to make the score 4-1 – and leadoff man Brett Linnenkohl came to the plate as the go ahead run with nobody out.
Linnenkohl bunted in a run with a nicely placed hit past reliever Webster Beal, cutting the lead to 4-2, and Wake Forest had all the momentum it would need.
Beal came back to strike out Ben Terry for the first out, but Allan Dykstra pulled the Deacons within one run on a deep sacrifice fly to center. Cleanup man Willy Fox then laced a double down the line in left that rattled into the corner to win the game, as Linnenkohl raced all the way around from first to slide home safely for the improbable win – Gardner-Webb’s third loss of two runs or less to an ACC program this season. The ‘Dogs have lost to Maryland, No. 1 North Carolina and Wake Forest by a combined four runs in 2007.
Gardner-Webb (7-9) controlled the game for the first eight and a half innings.
GWU went on top 2-0 in the top of the first, as Wake Forest starter Joel Ernst ran into early control problems. A pair of one-out walks – to Matt Rizzuto and Josh Drewery – put runners on board, and Justin Loyd poked an RBI single through the left side to plate Rizzuto for an early 1-0 edge. Jeremiah Lokken roped an RBI double down the line in right to drive in Drewery for a 2-0 lead.
Ernst walked Joey Testa to load the bases, but got a pair of fielder’s choice grounders to get out of the jam.
GWU starter Taylor Brooks looked sharp early on, getting out of the first two innings with no damage and just one hit allowed. Brooks got the first two outs in the bottom of the third inning with ease as well, but gave Wake Forest a chance to get rolling with a throwing error on a close play at first base. Brooks started off Deacon slugger Dykstra with a 2-0 count, and was lifted in favor of lefty Cogdill.
Cogdill lost Dykstra on a walk, but got a fly ball to end the inning.
Gardner-Webb pushed two more runs across in the sixth, with Lokken getting things started with an infield single and a stolen base. Daniel Cooke drove in Lokken with a single up the middle and stole second himself with one out. A groundout moved Cooke to third and – after a walk to Shea Harris – leadoff man Jamaal Kinard singled hard off the knee of Deacon relief pitcher Kirby Wedekind to push the Bulldog lead to 4-0.
Wake Forest appeared ready to make a push in the sixth itself, getting two runners on board to start the inning, but Cogdill got three fly balls to get out with the 4-0 lead intact. Gardner-Webb put a pair on board in the ninth with one out, but the Deacons got their third double play of the game to end the frame – and headed to the bottom of the ninth for their game-winning rally.
Beal (1-3) took the loss, allowing a run on two hits in 0.2 innings of work. Matt Hammond worked 3.0 scoreless innings for the win in relief for Wake Forest.
Gardner-Webb got two hits each from Kinard (2-for-5), Lokken (2-for-5) and Loyd (2-for-5), as the ‘Dogs rapped out 10 safeties on the day. Wake Forest had five of its eight hits in the ninth, with eight different Deacons collecting base knocks in the game.
Gardner-Webb has no time for rest, as it travels to face SEC foe Georgia for a three-game set in Athens this weekend. The opener is at 6 pm ET on Friday, March 9.