The NC State softball team finished up the NFCA Leadoff Classic with a 9-0 drumming at the hands of Mississippi State and the team went 2-3 over the weekend as a whole.
The game against Mississippi State started badly and only got worse from there. The Bulldogs scored four runs in the first inning thanks to a Chloe Malau'ulu grand slam. Sophomore right-hander Sydney Nester was able to retire the next three batters but the damage was done already.
The Wolfpack managed to hold the Bulldogs to just those four runs through the next two innings but the Pack couldn’t get anything going offensively. Just one player, senior center fielder Angie Rizzi, was able to pick up a hit against the Bulldog’s Grace Fagan who recorded eight strikeouts in the five-inning game.
The Bulldogs racked up one more run in the fourth before putting the game away in the fifth with two more home runs. With the score at 9-0 in the bottom of the fifth, the game was called a mercy rule.
While the scoreline might not reflect it, the Wolfpack was decent defensively behind its pitchers. Both sophomore shortstop April Visser and third baseman junior Logan Morris made impressive plays in the second and third innings, respectively.
Visser made a great snag on a line drive and was able to double up the runner on second. In the third inning, Morris was able to make a nice diving play at third and throw across the diamond to get the runner out at first base.
While the Wolfpack would have liked to come away better than 2-3 on the weekend, there are some positive signs of things to come for the Pack this season. Here are some of the key takeaways from the Pack’s performance in the NFCA Leadoff Classic.
Tatyana Forbes is a force to be reckoned with
The senior outfielder had a fantastic weekend at the plate and the Wolfpack can expect nothing less out of Forbes as the season progresses. Despite going 0-2 against the Bulldogs, Forbes finished the weekend with an outstanding .471 batting average with eight hits, one of which was a triple.
The transfer from FIU finished last season with a .315 average and this year she was selected to the 2020 Mexico Olympic Softball Team, and the Wolfpack’s opponents are quickly finding out why.
Morris, low quantity but high quality
Morris was one of the Wolfpack’s power hitters last season, with the third baseman being one of two players to rack up double-digit home runs. In the five games this weekend, Morris trailed behind just Forbes in RBIs with four, despite her .188 average over the weekend.
In her 16 at-bats, Morris struck out just once, however, as the season hits its groove, Morris should be able to find her rhythm again and be one of the Wolfpack’s offensive weapons.
Trial by fire
This weekend was no doubt a trial by fire for this Wolfpack team. With four of its five opponents either being ranked or receiving votes. The Wolfpack’s three losses came at the hands of No. 7 Minnesota, No. 16 Kentucky and Mississippi State who received votes in the most recent poll.
This is exactly the kind of start to the season that you want. The Wolfpack proved it can hold its own against some top competition and while none of the losses were particularly close (six runs, four runs and nine runs) there were definitely some positives from the losses.
Pitching isn’t quite there yet, but it isn’t far off
While the combined ERA of 5.73 for the Wolfpack’s three pitchers isn’t stunning, the trio of Nester, senior Devin Wallace and freshman Sam Gress was able to hold the Pack’s opponents to a .237 batting average, .035 below what the Pack’s hit as a team across the weekend.
Wallace and Nester did a bulk of the heavy lifting for the Wolfpack across the weekend, pitching 12 and 17.1 innings, respectively, while Gress pitched just 3.2. Wallace gave up just 10 hits while striking out 10 batters, and Nester struck out 13 and gave up 15 hits.
The pitching is undoubtedly close and as the trio faces more at-bats in the coming weeks, it should be able to tighten things up and be solid for the Pack.