When Courtney Mirabella learned she had received her highest honor to date, the former Braden River softball star repeated a line that has defined her storied career.
"It makes me want to work harder," Mirabella said Wednesday after being notified she is the only player from Florida named to the MaxPreps 2013 Softball All-American team.
Mirabella was doing just that this week, playing in the Colorado Sparkler Tournament as part of a whirlwind tour to get ready for her college career.
Last season, Mirabella led the state of Florida with 1.97 strikeouts per inning and a 0.24 ERA while finishing her career with 945 strikeouts, believed to be a record for Manatee and Sarasota counties. She was selected to the MaxPreps All-American second team.
The right-handed phenom had a new person to share her latest honor with in N.C. State head softball coach Shawn Rychick, who is at the Colorado event looking for players to put around her. Mirabella will play for the Wolfpack next season.
Mirabella is a three-time Bradenton Herald All-Area player of the year and first-team all-state selection this past season, but this award had special significance to her.
"It's a pretty big deal because it's the only national honor I've gotten, and I am surprised," Mirabella said from Denver as she prepared for the CBS College Sports-televised tournament all-star game Wednesday night. "I want to prove to people that I deserve it, which is one of the reasons I am here. I am facing the best hitters in the country. But I just love playing the game, and I don't know what
else I would be doing if I stayed home."
Rychick said Mirabella is already ahead of the game with her work ethic and said it will help the 18 year-old accelerate her college career.
"For her to be here shows she has a good perspective on what college ball is about and her desire to get better," Rychick said. "If you just cruise into college, you are going to struggle a little bit, and she is putting in the work. You hope your pitcher is the hardest worker on the team because they have the most impact, especially in the game of softball. It all starts with them."
Mirabella will follow the Colorado tournament with a showcase event in Reno, Nev., and then Huntington Beach, Calif., for the Premier Girls Fastpitch national qualifier with her Gold Coast Hurricanes team out of Miami.
"They (N.C. State coaches) didn't tell me anything about next year," Mirabella said. "They have their two top pitchers returning, and I just want to be able to contribute as much as I can. These tournaments will get me better prepared. In high school, you maybe face five girls in a lineup who can hit, but in these tournaments everyone can hit and you can't make a mistake."
Next season, N.C. State returns Emily Weiman, who was the 2013 ACC pitcher of the year as a sophomore, finishing with a school-record 33 victories in the school's 35-20-1 season that saw the Wolfpack win the ACC postseason tournament. She threw 323.1 innings out of possible 369.
"We are looking for some depth and to spread the innings around and hopefully Courtney will come in and take some innings," Rychick said. "At the beginning of the season, everyone has to earn a spot, and there will be opportunities to pitch. You never know about injuries. But she'll get innings as a freshman. I know she will throw well for us and be a factor. She was one of the better pitchers in the country last season in the class of 2013."