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ACC Tournament Recap: Wake Forest Heavy Weights Secure Win against UNC

 Julian Guilarte  |    May 25th, 2024 11:27am EDT

(Photo by Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wake Forest Heavy Weights Burns and Kurtz secure the win against North Carolina 

Game 2 North Carolina vs Wake Forest 

Fans from North Carolina were lined up in packs waiting for an instant classic against Wake Forest on Friday, May 24. The capacity crowd of 9,296 people was packed everywhere in the 9-5 win in 12 innings for Wake Forest.

People were standing, and some were even on the lawn that runs from left field to center field at Trusit Field in Charlotte, N.C. To this point, it is the highest-attended game of the ACC tournament.

Wake Forest starting pitcher Chase Burns put on a show and showed why he’s as good as advertised. The right-handed pitcher is the seventh-ranked draft prospect on MLB Pipeline, and scouts were packed in to see him pitch.

He showed poise and emotion while mowing down a formidable North Carolina lineup. Burns gave up six runs in 6.1 innings and struck out 15 batters in his first start against North Carolina on March 29 in a 6-5 loss. Burns got his revenge on May 24 and then some.

Burns had five strikeouts through two innings. Wake Forest SS Marek Houston hit a solo home run for the game’s first run in the third against North Carolina starting pitcher Shea Sprague.

Burns struck out eight batters through nine innings, and North Carolina had zero answers for him.

Wake Forest second baseman Adam Tellier hit a solo shot in the fourth for a 2-0 lead. The game would stay at that score until Burns was pulled after the sixth.

Chase Burns had 15 strikeouts in six scoreless innings. Only three of his outs recorded in the game weren’t strikeouts. His fastball hit 100 MPH, and his slider was in the upper 80s all night. He kept them off balance and threw a lot of sliders because he felt they were hunting fastballs.

Burns had 30 whiffs on just over 100 pitches, and 26 came from the slider. His stuff was electric all night.

Burns’ season stats are 95 innings, 184 strikeouts, and an ERA of 2.46. This guy is good that he strikes out around two batters per inning. His 184 strikeouts lead Division I.

Burns spoke to World Baseball Network after the game.

“Moose always preaches one pitch at a time. I can’t think about the next batter or anything like that, just having conviction and knowing what I’m doing with the ball,” Burns told World Baseball Network.

Burns was referring to his pitching coach, Corey Muscara, and it was clear he was confident with every pitch he threw against North Carolina.

Wake Forest catcher Cameron Gill hit a two-run home run to make it 4-0 in the seventh. It was his second home run of the tournament. It was a massive lift for Wake Forest after Burns was pulled from the game.

The game changed for North Carolina once Burns was pulled. They got to the Wake Forest bullpen in the seventh and scored three runs. First baseman Parks Harber drove in the first run with an RBI groundout. Right fielder Anthony Donofrio had an RBI single to cut the lead to 4-2. Catcher Luke Stevenson tacked on an RBI single.

North Carolina continued to feast on the Wake Forest bullpen and scored two more runs in the eighth. Center fielder Vance Honeycutt hit an RBI double to tie the game 4-4.

Harber came through again with another RBI and a clutch single to give North Carolina a 5-4 lead in the eighth.

Wake Forest’s lefty first baseman, Nick Kurtz, had the biggest hit of the game, with an RBI double to tie the game in the ninth. He hit it with two outs and two strikes against North Carolina reliever Matt Poston.

Kurtz kept the team alive and just missed a home run for the second time of the night. Kurtz did it again in the 12th opposite field with a two-run home run off North Carolina reliever  Ben Pederson to give Wake Forest a 7-5 lead.

Kurtz is the fourth-ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Draft Rankings, which might not be high enough. Krutz was 2-for-4 with two walks and three RBI. His season stats are 22 home runs, 55 RBI, 74 walks, and an OPS of 1.335 in 164 at-bats. He leads Division I with 74 walks.

Pederson took the loss in the game, giving up four runs and three earned in 1.1 innings. Wake Forest added two insurance runs in the 12th with a single from center fielder Antonio Morales.

The Wake Forest bullpen was flawless in extra innings, pitching three scoreless innings. Ben Schenoksy picked up the win, getting two outs in the 11th

Honeycutt hit another double in the 12th against Wake Forest reliever Michael Massey. Honeycutt is the 23rd-ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Draft Rankings. His season stats are 22 home runs, 58 RBI, 28 stolen bases, and an OPS of 1.118 in 216 at-bats.

Massey preserved the win with three strikeouts in a scoreless 12th. The right-handed Massey is the 77th-ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Draft Rankings.

Honeycutt talked about the challenge of facing Burns and how the switch flipped for North Carolina once he was pulled from the game.

“Man, he’s good. There’s no way around that. We just knew we had to try to have some good at-bats, put something together, and get his pitch count up a little bit,” Honeycutt told World Baseball Network. ‘Once he gets pulled from the game you obviously have more confidence”

Game 1 Florida State vs Virginia

James Tibbs III was the best player in Florida State’s 12-7 win against Virginia. Tibbs III went 2-for-3 with a home run, walk, sacrifice fly, and five RBI. Tibbs III is the 21st-ranked draft prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Draft Rankings. The left-handed Tibbs III season stats are 25 home runs, 84 RBI, and an OPS of 1.341 in 207 at-bats.

Florida State left-handed pitcher Jamie Arnold was nasty, topping out around 97. He pitched six innings with two runs allowed and nine strikeouts. His first five outs of the game came via strikeout, and he picked up the win.

Tibbs III spoke to the World Baseball Network after the game.

“Honestly, I was sitting fastball, and I think I got a cutter. He just left it over the middle of the plate, and I put a good swing on it,” Tibbs III said.

ACC Semi-Finals 

Florida State won Pool D and will play against Wake Forest in the semi-finals on Saturday, May 26 at 1 p.m. EST.

Duke will play Miami in the other semi-final matchup on Saturday, May 26, at 5 p.m. EST.

Pool B notes

Clemson beat Louisville 8-7 on a walk-off walk in the ninth inning from center fielder Cannarella. Both teams were already eliminated from Pool B.

You can watch every game on WatchESPN.

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Julian Guilarte