NC State’s Avent talks about play of Will Wilson
Elliott Avent was happy to have Will Wilson back in the lineup, even when Wilson wasn’t hitting.
The N.C. State coach was ecstatic with his star shortstop on Friday.
Wilson’s home run set the tone for N.C. State’s 6-1 win over Clemson. The junior hit a two-run homer, his team-leading 15th of the season, for a 2-0 lead in the first inning. He turned on an offspeed pitch from Clemson starter Mat Clark and launched the ball towards Sullivan dorm in leftfield.
“How far he hit it, it doesn’t count for anymore, but it sure makes you feel good,” Avent said.
N.C. State (38-13, 15-10 ACC) is feeling a lot better after slumping through April. The Wolfpack has won six of the past eight games and the return of Wilson has been a big reason. Wilson suffered a freak injury on April 16 when he collided with UNC-Wilmington’s first baseman after Wilson had hit a home run.
Wilson ended up missing six games as a precaution for a concussion.
“Sitting out six games is never fun,” Wilson said.
He returned on April 30 and went 0 for 5 in his first game. Since then, Wilson has hit .500 (9 of 18) with two home runs and seven RBIs. He finished 2 for 2 on Friday with the homer, a double and two walks.
“He makes a world of difference, not just in the lineup but his presence with the team,” designated hitter Brad Debo said.
Wilson has a calming effect on the team, Avent said.
“He just makes everybody relax a little bit, everybody feel better,” Avent said.
The Wolfpack got some help from the Tigers’ defense in the bottom of the second inning for a pair of runs. Debo doubled and advanced on a David Vasquez single. Debo scored on a bunt by Dillon Cooper, which Clemson pitcher Mat Clark couldn’t field cleanly. Cooper scored on a throwing error by third baseman Justin Hawkins to make it 4-0.
Freshman centerfielder Tyler McDonough added two hits, including a triple to score a pair of runs in the seventh inning.
N.C. State reliever Nick Swiney gave up one hit, a home run to Kyle Wilkie in the ninth, over 4.1 innings to improve to 6-0 on the season.
The Wolfpack won its first ACC series opener since a 6-5 win at Boston College on April 5. It had lost eight of its previous 10 ACC games. Clemson (29-21, 12-13) has been in a funk of its own. The Tigers have lost 13 of 17 since April 10.
Not that N.C. State is worried about anyone else. The Wolfpack, which started the season 27-2, would like to get back to that early-season form.
“We’re definitely on the up from what we were going through,” Wilson said.
And they can thank Wilson for much of that.