With the postseason fate of Wake Forest’s baseball team hanging on a must-win game against LSU last Thursday, Demon Deacons coach Tom Walter called on his ace pitcher to take the mound in a winner-take-all situation with the hopes of advancing to the College World Series finals.
Albemarle native and former North Stanly star Rhett Lowder was up to the challenge, tossing 63 strikes in 88 pitches while allowing no runs and just three hits in seven efficient innings.
Although the top-seeded Demon Deacons eventually lost in the 11th inning on a home run by the fifth-seeded Tigers’ Tommy White in a 2-0 LSU win, nothing can take away one of the best seasons in the history of Wake Forest baseball. The Deacs set program records in regular season wins, ACC wins, ACC series wins, postseason wins and overall wins.
Lowder’s confident showing in a precarious situation was emblematic of the dominance he has shown over the past two seasons and demonstrative of how far he believes his team has come.
“This is just the evolution of Wake Forest baseball to get to where we are now. It’s something to be proud of,” the two-time ACC Pitcher of the Year said after the game. “I’m super grateful just to be able to put the jersey on and then to be a part of what we’ve built. This is the standard for Wake Forest baseball now, so I’m just excited to see when they get back.”
Even though Lowder had pitched just three games earlier (a 3-2 win over LSU on June 17), the junior left himself only one choice in the matter when it came to his availability — he responded by shutting out the Tigers during his appearance and breaking Wake Forest’s single-season strikeout record.
Currently projected to be one of the first pitchers selected and a top-10 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, he acknowledged that his performance felt like the closing of a chapter.
“I’m grateful just to be able to put this jersey on, so whatever I can do whenever I can pitch, I’m gonna pitch. This might be the last time,” Lowder said. “It’s going to be hard for me to take this off tonight, but there’s no way I wouldn’t pitch in this game. This is probably the best game I’ve ever played in. I wish we could have come out on the other side, but credit to LSU — they’re a really good team and Paul Skenes is a really good pitcher.”
With the 2-0 extra-inning win, the Tigers advanced to an all-SEC best-of-three finals against Florida, leaving the Deacs just one victory short as Wake lost to them in back-to-back contests.
Despite his team’s loss, Wake’s coach made it clear that he was proud of the way Lowder represented his school in that game as well as his three years in Winston-Salem.
“The guy went 30-5 in his career and this was the first game we’ve lost this year that he’s pitched in,” Walter said. “Obviously we wouldn’t be here without him, and he’s just a total gamer.
“He was just out there competing and battling, matching Paul Skenes pitch for pitch. The most amazing thing is that he’s an even better kid than he is a pitcher. He’s just the kind of guy that you want to go to war with. Everybody on this team just has so much respect and love for him. He’s the epitome of what you want in a college baseball player.”
Lowder now awaits the next step in his career: the first round of MLB’s amateur draft is set for July 9 in Seattle.