By Lizzie Hattrich
The NC State softball team is set to open its season this weekend in Tampa, Fla., at the USF Opening Weekend Invitational. This is the fourth consecutive season the team has opened its season in Florida, as the Wolfpack is slated to play five games Friday through Sunday at South Florida’s USF Softball Stadium.
USF Opening Weekend Invitational Schedule
Feb. 8 NC State vs. Michigan 10 a.m.
Feb. 8 Illinois State vs. NC State 12:15 p.m.
Feb. 9 NC State vs. South Florida 8:15 p.m.
Feb. 10 Arizona vs. NC State 11:15 a.m.
Feb. 10 NC State vs. Florida 1:30 p.m.
*Only live stats will be available this weekend
Our New Leader
This weekend will be first-year head coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift’s first trip as the leader of the Pack. She was hired on June 2, 2018, after seven seasons at the helm of Saint Francis, and is the third head coach in program history.
The team returns 10 players from last season, including six that spent a majority of the time in the starting lineup. Additionally, the team has seven newcomers (four transfers and three freshmen) that make up this year’s squad.
Scouting The Competition
-Three opponents are ranked in the preseason top 25 (#5 Florida, #7 Arizona and #19 Michigan), while South Florida is receiving votes for the national poll.
-Four of the five opponents earned a spot in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, as Arizona advanced to a Super Regional and Florida reached the Women’s College World Series.
-NC State has faced each team at least twice before this weekend.
-Each squad returns its top hitter and pitcher from 2018.
-Florida’s Kelly Barnhill and Amanda Lorenz, as well as Michigan’s Meghan Beaubien and Faith Canfield, earned NFCA All-America honors last year. Arizona’s top offensive player, Alyssa Palomino, also garnered the accolade in 2018.
-Florida and South Florida were both picked as the preseason favorite in their respective conferences, while Arizona and Illinois State were predicted to finish in the top five of theirs.
-Additionally, Florida’s Barnhill and Lorenz and Illinois State’s Andrea Coursey tabbed preseason all-conference honors from their respective leagues.
-Arizona (4), Florida (3) Michigan (1) had a combined eight players named to the 2019 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List.
For sophomore Kama Woodall, this weekend will be a homecoming. Her hometown of Spring Fill, Fla., is approximately one hour north of Tampa.
NC State will open up its home schedule next weekend when it plays Nebraska and Wisconsin twice apiece in the ACC/B1G Challenge Feb. 15-17 at Dail Stadium.
Season and single-game tickets are now on sale. NC State is slated to play 30 games at Dail Stadium this spring. Fans can go to gopack.com/tickets or call 919-865-1910 to purchase tickets.