There are two big questions concerning the NC State softball team this season: how will the team replace departing seniors "Every Inning" Emily Weiman and shortstop Renada Davis, the program's all-time leaders in wins and home runs, respectively. Judging from the first two games of the season, the Wolfpack should be just fine. The 23rd ranked Pack won a pair Friday in the River City Leadoff tournament hosted by Jacksonville, besting Coastal Carolina 5-1 and Kansas 3-1.
Tyler Ross, who set the program single-season record with 55 RBI a year ago, picked up where she left off in the season opener, putting the Pack on the board with a three-run dinger in the third. Lana Van Dyken had a hit and two walks to set the table from the leadoff spot.
Courtney Mirabella, tasked with replacing Weiman, who won 108 games in her career and pitched over 1,000 innings, went the distance in both games, twirling a shutout until a solo homer in the seventh against the Chanticleers and opening up with five more goose eggs before the Jayhawks plated their lone run in the sixth. For the day, Mirabella went 14 innings, allowed just six hits, four walks, and two earned runs while fanning 18.
Ross homered again against the Jayhawks, and the Pack got a two-run double from freshwoman Cheyenne Balzer, who got her first start behind the dish. Balzer, from Temecula, is one of seven NC State players from California.
While Mirabella proved worthy of Weiman's shoes, Alyssa Compton struggled a bit at the dish as Davis's replacement at shortstop. She went hitless on the day (0-for-4) but did draw a walk, reach base on a hit by pitch, and played errorless ball in the field. Compton, also a Californian, started all 60 games at second base as a freshperson in 2015.
Kansas, by the way, is no slouch. The Jayhawks were a top 25 RPI club a year ago and played in the NCAA tournament. Kansas has won at least 30 games for four straight seasons.
The Pack will play two more on Saturday, starting with UNCG at 3 p.m. They play host Jacksonville immediately after the tilt with the Spartans. We'll see if Mirabella shares the circle.