EAST MANATEE — Courtney Mirabella's life over the last 72 hours has been a whirlwind.
With word out that the Braden River softball pitching phenom was going to sign a letter of intent at the end of this week, colleges coaches began making a big sales pitch.
"It was incredible. The head coaches from Florida, South Florida and Virginia called. They were making a new and strong case for their school. They kept calling and getting others to call on their behalf. The phone kept ringing," said Tony Mirabella, Courtney's father.
The two-time Bradenton Herald Player of the Year ended her junior season last spring as one of the top pitchers in the country in the class of 2013. Then during her fall club season, she looked even better and her stock soared.
"I felt like I was getting recruited all over again. I couldn't believe it," Courtney Mirabella said. "It was stressful. Some of the coaches came to talk to me and some called. They said I could be a good addition to their program. They said there were interested all along, but to me it didn't seem like it."
Loyalty turned out to be a big factor, and on Friday afternoon Mirabella signed with North Carolina State, the school that first offered her and stuck with her even after it went through a head coaching change. She will receive a full athletic scholarship to play softball.
"N.C. State was with me from the beginning and that meant a lot to me. I also love ACC basketball," Mirabella said, joking. "I didn't like some of the other schools going back and forth. They said they were always interested in me, but I didn't seem that way to me. I wanted a school that stayed committed to me and that's what happened.
"The new (N.C. State) coach (Shawn Rychcik) contacted me as soon as he was hired and said he wanted me and that I still had my scholarship. I considered some of those other schools, but I knew I always wanted to go to N.C. State. The campus is pretty, and the girls on the team are like a big family, and that was important to me."
Mirabella signed with two of her teammates. Her batterymate, catcher Ashley Allard, signed with Georgia Gwinnett, an NAIA school in Lawrenceville, Ga., and Hannah Loyer, the Pirates' top hitter last season and backup pitcher and outfielder, signed with Florida Southern.
Known for her blazing fastball and array of pitches, Mirabella is believed to be the all-time strikeout leader for Manatee County with one full season still ahead of her. "The last 48 hours were very stressful," Tony Mirabella said. "Everybody kept telling me you are the adult and should help her make the decision. To me, it was her choice. They (coaches from Florida, South Florida and Virginia) were trying to convince me that she could play on a championship team that was going to go far and to the World Series and education wise there were better. But I think N.C. State is up there with them."
As a sophomore, Mirabella led the state with a 0.50 ERA and was second in strikeouts with 313 in leading the Pirates to the Class 4A state final four. Last year, she was tops in the state with 1.97 strikeouts per inning (241 total), compiled a 1.08 ERA and was 16-3.
Loyer led the Pirates with a .477 batting average, 26 RBIs and 42 hits. She compiled a 7-2 record with a 2.04 ERA that included 104 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings. "I chose Florida Southern because it's a smaller school and has a good education base. They've been looking at me for awhile and I really liked the school. They see me as a pitcher, but want to keep my bat in the lineup," she said.
Allard batted .326 last year, led the Pirates with 10 doubles and was third with 23 runs scored. A stalwart behind the plate, she was charged with only one error in 329 chances and tied for third on the team with a .494 slugging percentage.
"I really connected with the coach and this year will be their first season of softball so I will be part of a new program. I am going there as a utility player. I am really excited and relieved this is over, " Allard said.