The toughest job for Tony Mirabella was getting his daughter to slow down.
Courtney Mirabella strives for perfection and doesn't want to leave anything to chance. She has an unmatched work ethic.
It's a reason the Braden River pitcher has been nearly perfect the past three years, capping her prep career with a third straight Bradenton Herald Softball Player of the Year award.
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She was named Class 7A Player of the Year and will become the first athlete in school history to have her number -- fittingly, No. 3 -- retired at Braden River's first home football game on Aug. 30.
"To have my number retired is a big honor. It puts a cap on everything. It means all the work I put it was worth it. I was really surprised when they told me they were going to do it," Mirabella said. "My dad wore number 33 in high school (at Manatee), and my sister (Heather) had number 3 when she played basketball for Braden River."
Mirabella's career numbers are astonishing and make a case that she is the best prep softball pitcher who has ever graced the Manatee-Sarasota County area.
Last season, the right-hander struck out 288 batters in 146 2/3 innings for a state-best 1.97 strikeout-per-inning ratio. In her last three
years, she has 842 strikeouts in 435 1/3 innings for a 1.94-per-inning mark, which is the best in the state during that time, according to several published reports.
Mirabella led the state this past season with a 0.24 ERA. For her career, the N.C. State signee compiled a 63-13 record, struck out 945 batters and gave up less than a run per game.
"The thing I am most happy about is that I kept improving," Mirabella said. "Every year, I gained something new. Last season, I gained a little speed on my pitches and was better at preparing for certain batters, knowing what pitches to throw."
Looking at her strikeouts, most people would assume Mirabella throws a blazing fastball, but she says she gets batters out with high-velocity pitches that move.
"In good high school softball, you can't get people out just by throwing fastballs. You've got to have movement, and Courtney has worked very hard on that," her dad said. "She knows how important it is to be well-prepared. She constantly wants to work."
Leaving nothing to chance has become the mantra in the Mirabella household. Last season, when Braden River was going to play Lakewood Ranch in a televised game that began at 6 p.m., Courtney and her father went to the Mustangs' field the day before at 6 p.m. to study the angles of the sun so she wouldn't be surprised by anything.
"My dad always wanted me to improve and never level out, and I really appreciate that," Mirabella said. "He has been my catcher since the beginning and taught me the basics. Mandy Schuerman (a former University of Florida pitcher) has also helped me a lot."
Sometimes their relationship can get testy, but father and daughter always resolve their differences because they agree the ultimate goal is to make Courtney the best pitcher she can be.
"Sometimes she yells at me because I don't work her hard enough, but I am trying to get her to slow down. There are times she needs to stop," Tony Mirabella said. "She wants her pitch to be perfect all the time. She knows being well-prepared in practice takes away luck."
It's hard for Mirabella to pick out one highlight game because of all her success, which includes four perfect games. But a game she cherishes is Braden River's 1-0, extra-inning region championship victory over Naples Barron Collier when as a sophomore. She struck out 21 batters.
Mirabella hopes to move into N.C. State's starting rotation next year. The Wolfpack won the ACC tournament this season.
"Right now, I am focusing on college. I want might to coach someday, and hopefully I can play for the USA softball team. That would be awesome," Mirabella said.