#17 North Carolina State Softball 2016 Preview

North Carolina State Wolfpack
Overall Rank: #17
Conference Rank: #2 ACC
 North Carolina State Logo
The steady rise of the North Carolina State softball program continued in 2015 as the Wolfpack earned a trip to Super Regionals to take on Oregon before falling to the Ducks in two games. There will be big shoes to fill with the graduation of Emily Weiman in the circle. She was absolutely dominant last season, winning an impressive 31 games. However, there is plenty of offensive talent back for head coach Shawn Rychcik to be a tough out once again in 2016.
2015: 38-22, 13-8
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Shawn Rychcik
Field Players:
Junior outfielder Taylor Ross will anchor what should be a pretty explosive offensive attack. Ross broke the program record for runs batted in with 55. In addition, Ross displays great power as she hit 14 homeruns and can steal a base when necessary after swiping nine bases in 12 attempts. Hannah Yeager will be back in the outfield as well in 2016 and will be looking to build upon a solid sophomore season where she hit .299 and drove in 24 runs. Junior catcher Molly Hutchison is going to be a crucial component of NC State’s success. She is going to lead a young pitching staff and also needs to continue to be a great power hitter that will challenge opposing pitchers on a regular basis.
This is where the Wolfpack’s season will be determined in a lot of ways. Junior Courtney Mirabella will take the reins as the ace of the staff, taking over for the great Emily Weiman. Mirabella was 7-5 last season with a 2.80 earned run average and is not afraid to go after hitters as she struck out 130 batters in 105 innings of work.
Who to Watch:
Harli Hubbard is going to have to step up into the number two spot in the pitching rotation and be able to give NC State some valuable innings to take some of the pressure off of Mirabella over the course of the long season. Senior infielder and catcher Maggie Hawkins will be another dangerous hitter, especially if she can get her overall batting average up into the .250-.260 range this season.
Final Projection:
If this Wolfpack team can consistently score runs in the early part of the season, it will buy time until the pitching rounds into shape. The schedule is loaded early with games against Kansas, Nebraska, Michigan, Florida, Stanford and California in the first few weeks of the season. Fast forward to the conference schedule and NC State will be challenged on the road with trips to Florida State and Notre Dame. That will more than likely determine the conference race in the ACC. It will be important for the Wolfpack to stay in contact with the Seminoles and Fighting Irish leading up to the final weeks of the ACC schedule if they want to win the regular season championship. It is going to take some time, but North Carolina State will be back in the NCAA Tournament and a threat to advance to the Super Regionals and beyond if things break the right way
Projected Postseason:  NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Tyler Ross, OF, 188
Hits: Tyler Ross, OF, 58
Home Runs: Tyler Ross, OF, 14
RBIs: Tyler Ross, OF, 55
Runs: Tyler Ross, OF, 43
Stolen Bases: Tyler Ross, OF, 9
Wins: Courtney Mirabella, P, 7
Innings Pitched: Courtney Mirabella, P, 105.0
Strikeouts: Courtney Mirabella, P, 130
Saves: Courtney Mirabella, P, 1