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Will Wilson Stands Out In Shortstop Showdown

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NC State shortstop Will Wilson (Photo by Carl Kline)

No. 17 North Carolina State on Friday night started its key ACC series against Clemson with a bang thanks to star shortstop Will Wilson. The junior put on a show in a key matchup of his own, as he faces off this weekend with Clemson star shortstop Logan Davidson, a matchup that is drawing plenty of attention from scouts as they evaluate the two likely first-rounders.

Wilson gave the Wolfpack the lead in the first inning when he hammered lefthander Mat Clark’s seventh pitch of the game over the left field wall for a two-run home run and its never looked back, cruising to a 6-1 victory. The win and series are significant for NC State (38-13, 15-10) as it tries to secure a spot as a regional host. Clemson (29-21, 12-13), meanwhile, is reeling, having lost 13 of its last 17 games and needs to pull out of its slide soon to make the NCAA Tournament.

But Friday night was about Wilson, as he showcased both his hitting ability and how much impact he can make for NC State. He finished the night 2-for-2 with a home run, a double, two walks and two runs. He is now hitting .341/.421/.681 with 15 home runs.

Coach Elliott Avent has been thrilled to have Wilson back in the lineup this month. Wilson missed six games after he was banged up in a freak collision when he was rounding first base after hitting a home run April 16 against UNC Wilmington. The Wolfpack were going through a funk at the same time and losing its star shortstop didn’t help matters.

But now Wilson is back, and NC State is back to playing the kind of baseball it knows it’s capable of.

“Everybody needs their guy in the lineup,” Avent said. “It just makes everybody relax a little bit, everybody feel better. He’s one of the best defensive shortstops I’ve ever had. He’s a baseball player.

“Obviously, that home run put us up 2-0 and relaxed everybody a little bit. How far he hit it doesn’t make it count for any more, but it sure makes you feel good.”

After homering in the first inning, Wilson took an unintentional-intentional walk in the second inning, drawing four straight balls with first base open and two outs in the second inning. He walked again in the seventh inning and came around to score on Tyler McDonough’s triple, giving the Wolfpack extra insurance. He has walked 25 times this season and struck out 38 times.

Perhaps Wilson’s best piece of hitting on the night was sandwiched between his walks. In the fifth inning, he ripped a changeup into the right-field corner for a double.

Avent said that was quintessential Will Wilson.

“He hits the mammoth home run, but then the guy’s throwing really good and he’s a smart enough baseball player and he wants to win enough that he goes the other way, just kind of gives himself up,” Avent said. “That’s what baseball’s all about.”

Wilson credited the NC State coaches for instilling a good approach at the plate.

“I think the coaching staff has done a phenomenal job of giving us an approach and a good scouting report so that we’re able to do what we’re doing, make pitch-to-pitch adjustments,” he said. “The coaching staff has prepared us really well.”

Wilson on Friday outshone his counterpart Davidson, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and was hit by a pitch.

Davidson and Wilson both grew up around Charlotte and both graduated this spring, finishing their degrees in three years. Wilson said they talked a bit about their similar paths before Friday’s game, but said there’s no rivalry.

The shortstop showdown wasn’t lost on Avent. He was effusive in his praise of Davidson, who is hitting .303/.419/.605 with 13 home runs and 16 stolen bases. Along with Nevada-Las Vegas’ Bryson Stott, Davidson and Wilson are considered the best college shortstops in the draft class.

“That’s two big-time shortstops on the field tonight,” Avent said. “I don’t know if the crowd realizes that, but in my opinion that’s two first-rounders and two guys that are going to play in the big leagues out there tonight.”

Davidson and Wilson have spent the last three years tearing into ACC pitching. Unless they face off again in the ACC Tournament in two weeks, this weekend will be the last time they share a field in college. And on Friday night, it was Wilson that got the upper hand.

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