Pack Baseball To Host Gwynn And San Diego State

RALEIGH, N.C. - The competition level keeps getting tougher for head coach Elliott Avent and the NC Statte baseball team, which has won four of its first five games but will face a stern test this weekend when San Diego State comes to Doak Field for a three-game series.

The Aztecs, coached by former San Diego Padres outfielder and future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn, are 2-5 through the first two weeks of the 2005 season, but three of those losses were against top-ranked Texas in Austin, and another was at Southern California. Hence, San Diego State will bring a battle-tested team to Raleigh to face the Wolfpack.

Gwynn, in his third season at San Diego State, has a 66-66 overall record. His squad finished 34-29 a year ago, including two wins in three games against NC State at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Baseball America has picked the Aztecs first this season in the Mountain West Conference, with second baseman James Guerrero, shortstop Lance Zawadzki, outfielder Jake McLintock, designated hitter Brock Ungricht, and pitcher Bruce Billings picked as preseason all-conference selections. San Diego State returns only nine lettermen from a year ago, but Gwynn and his staff have brought in a strong recruiting class of 20 newcomers.

NC State is hitting .345 as a team, led by sophomore shortstop Jonathan Diaz at .556, junior outfielder Brian Aragon at and senior third baseman Matt Devine at .500. Senior outfielder Bryan Kinneberg leads the team with eight RBIs.

Game times are 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday. All three games will be broadcast live on WKNC, 88.1 FM, and will be available through the internet on via Yahoo's subscription service. Live in-game stats also can be accessed through on the Gametracker.

THE STARTING PITCHERS: Senior righthander Phil Davidson (1-1, 0.82) will start for the Wolfpack in the first game of the series against the Aztecs. Davidson has made two starts this season, working 11 innings and allowing seven runs, one earned, on 12 hits. He has walked two and struck out eight. In his last start, February 11 at Campbell, Davidson pitched well but was victimized by his own poor defensive play. Davidson's two-out throwing error opened the floodgates for a five-run inning by the Camels, with all five runs unearned. He wound up giving up six runs, all unearned, on six hits in six innings of work. He walked two and struck out three. Righthander Bruce Billings (1-0, 3.00) will start Friday for the Aztecs.

Sophomore righthander Gib Hobson (1-0, 5.62) will start for NC State on Saturday in the second game of the series. Hobson has made two starts, allowing five runs on 11 hits in eight innings. He shut down Delaware State on February 5, but struggled against Campbell on February 12, allowing five runs on eight hits in four innings. Lefthander Alex Hinshaw (0-1, 5.68) will get the start on Saturday for San Diego State.

Sophomore righthander Jeff Stallings (2-0, 1.00) will start the finale on Sunday. Stallings has made two appearances, one in relief, and has allowed a run on seven hits in nine strong innings. He has walked two and struck out 10. In his last appearance, February 12 vs. Campbell, he pitched three dominant innings of one-hit relief, allowing no runs and striking out four, to pick up his second victory of the season. Righthander Andres Esquibel (0-1, 5.87) will start for San Diego State on Sunday.

NC STATE VS. SAN DIEGO STATE: The Wolfpack and Aztecs met for the first time ever a year ago at Tony Gwynn Stadium, with San Diego State winning two of the three games. NC State won the first game 3-1 behind seven outstanding innings from Mike Rogers, who allowed just one unearned run on four hits in seven innings. David Hicks and Ryan Johnson had RBIs for the Pack, and Joey Devine pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for his fifth save of the season. The rest of the weekend did not go so well for the Wolfpack. The Aztecs won the second game of the series 7-4 on the strength of a four-run uprising in the sixth inning -- three of those runs were unearned -- and salted the game away with two insurance runs in the eighth. San Diego State took the suspence out of things early in the series finale, jumping to a 6-3 lead after three innings and coasting to an 8-6 victory. Josh Hill drove in three runs for the Aztecs, and James Guerrero added a pair of RBIs.

AVENT PICKS UP 300th WIN AT NC STATE: The Wolfpack's 3-1 victory over Delaware State on February 6 marked head coach Elliott Avent's 300th victory in his eight-plus seasons at NC State. Avent, who picked up overall career win No. 500 last March 14 vs. Northwestern, became the third baseball coach in NC State history to win 300 games, joining Sam Esposito (513-253 from 1967-87) and Ray Tanner (395-173 frojm 1988-96). Heading into action this weekend vs. San Diego State, Avent's record at NC State stands at 301-194. His career record, which includes eight seasons at New Mexico State, is 526-405.

THROWING STRIKES: A year ago, the NC State pitching staff set a school record with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.8:1. In 44 innings this season against Delaware State and Campbell, the NC State pitching staff walked just 10 and fanned 36, an average of 2.0 walks and 7.4 strikeouts per game. The K:BB ratio comes to a sparkling 3.6:1.

LAST WEEKEND: NC State and Campbell split a pair of games, with the Camels taking the opener in Buies Creek 9-1, and the Wolfpack mounting a sixth-inning rally Saturday to come from behind and down Campbell 8-6. In the opener on Friday, former NC State infielder Tim Holt belted a three-run home run to cap a five-run second inning and righthander Lincoln Smith picked up the win with four shutout innings of relief. NC State starter Phil Davidson pitched well enough to win, but was hurt by his own costly error in the second inning, which led directly to five unearned runs in the inning. Davidson pitched six innings, allowing six runs, all unearned, on six hits. He walked two and struck out three.

NC State spotted Campbell a 5-0 lead again on Saturday at the Doak, but Bryan Kinneberg and Aaron Bates drove in two runs apiece in a six-run sixth inning to lift the Wolfpack past the Camels. Sophomore righthander Jeff Stallings (2-0) picked up the win after working three innings of shutout relief. He allowed one hit, did not issue a walk and struck out four. Joey Devine pitched a scoreless ninth inning to record his second save of the season. Devine walked one, struck out one and did not allow a hit. The Wolfpack took the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Kinneberg lined a two-run double to left-center and Bates drove a two-run sacrifice fly to dep center field. Runners scored from second and third base on the play to give NC State a 6-5 lead. An RBI single by Aaron Cone and a Campbell error allowed two more Wolfpack runs before the inning was over.

STREAKS: Through the first five games of the season, four NC State players have active hitting streaks of more than a game, and junior outfielder Brian Aragon has hit safely in all five games this season. Junior catcher Jake Muyco (3 games), senior third baseman Matt Devine (2 games) and senior outfielder Jason St. Julien (2 games) also enter play vs. San Diego State with active hitting streaks.

OVERPOWERING: When the 2005 season began, junior righthander Joey Devine already was a two-time All-ACC selection, a 2003 All-American, a 2005 preseason All-American, and NC State's career saves leader with 24. Devine has lived up to that reputation so far in 2005. He has made two appearances, both scoreless and hitless, has walked one and struck out six. He is 2-for-2 in save opportunities. For his career, Devine has allowed 80 hits and struck out 140 in 104 1/3 innings.

SAVES LEADER: With saves in his first two appearances of the 2005 season, Wolfpack closer Joey Devine now has 26 for his career. Devine, who became NC State's career saves leader last March 13 vs. Northeastern, currently is tied for fifth place in Atlantic Coast Conference history. With his next save he will pass former North Carolina closer Derrick DePriest and take sole possession of fifth place in conference history. Former UNC sidewinder Thad Chrismon is the ACC's all-time saves leader with 41.

EXCELLENT DEFENSE: Much of NC State's success a year ago was due to an airtight defense. Strong defense appears to be the order of the day for the Wolfpack again in 2005. Despite two errors February 11 at Campbell, the Wolfpack heads into action vs. San Diego State this weekend with a .984 team fielding percentage and just three errors in 192 total chances.

The Wolfpack ranked fourth in the nation in 2004 with a sensational .976 fielding percentage, a school record. The Pack made all the routine plays a year ago, and numerous highlight-reel plays as well. NC State committed just 53 errors in 60 games last season, the fewest errors in a season by a Wolfpack team since the 1973 team committed just 50 errors. In 34 games.

THE OTHER DEVINE: No one cheers harder for Joey Devine than his older brother.A redshirt-senior infielder, Matt Devine's first two seasons at NC State were not easy. He redshirted in 2003 after transferring to NC State from Allen County (Kansas) Community College, following one semester at Auburn. No player enjoys redshirting, but the 2003 season was a joyride for Devine compared to 2004, when he came down with a bad eye infection and missed all but four games. So really, cheering for Joey was just about all Matt had to keep him going the last two years.

This season, the Devine brothers have been able to cheeer for each other. Successful laser surgery last summer restored Matt's vision to normal, and he claimed the starting job at third base with a strong fall practice. Through five games he was hitting .500 (7-for-14) with one double, one triple and four RBIs, and had played flawless defense at third base . HOT START: In five games this season, senior outfielder Bryan Kinneberg has driven in eight runs, matching his RBI output for all of 2004. Kinneberg played in 37 games a year ago, but he was healthy for none of them. A separated shoulder in the preseason coupled with a recurring bad hamstring made Kinneberg a shadow of the player he was in the fall of 2003. He finished the '04 season with a .215 average, three doubles, one triple and eight RBIs. After five games this season, he was hitting .353 with a double, a triple and eight RBIs.

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