The Wolfpacker

January 2017

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 78 of 103

JANUARY 2017 ■ 79 The outfield should be a strength for the Pack. Senior left fielder Tyler Ross is one of the ACC's premier players. She led NC State last year in batting average (.380), hits (65), home runs (18), runs scored (55) and stolen bases (27), setting new school records in the latter two stats en route to second-team All-ACC honors. In right field, junior Macauley Prickett returns after hitting .315 a year ago, and talented freshman Jade Caraway earned a spot in center. The trio should do more than just help at the plate. "I really think the three of them together are going to be one of the best defensive outfields in the country," Rychcik said. "If it doesn't go out of the park, we got a really good chance of making a play. "It's really a huge asset and a thing going for us. We are going to need it. We may not score at the rate we've had in years past." Freshman Haley Finn quickly impressed Rychcik at shortstop with her arm and range. Rychcik called her "a real true short- stop." That will allow junior Alyssa Comp- ton, who batted .263 last season, to play a versatile role of third and second for State. Sophomore Brittany Nimmo could play third when she's not pitching. She hit three home runs in limited at-bats last year. Se- nior Molly Martin could get some playing time at second as well. Senior Molly Hutchison and sophomore Cheyenne Balzer are a bit interchangeable between catcher and first base. Hutchison was second on the squad last season in batting average (.329) and tied for third in home runs (11). Freshman Haylee Kobziak flashed enough potential in the fall to per- haps earn a role there, too. Nimmo and junior Harli Hubbard are hoping to be healthy and strong enough to bounce back on the mound. "They're better, they're stronger," Rych- cik noted. "When you have to take time off in the summer after a limited spring, that really sets you back. We've made a lot of progress, but it's not 100 percent. "They've spent a lot of time rehabbing. When a pitcher shuts down, they go right to zero." They will be joined by freshman Peyton Silverman, who made a good first impres- sion in the fall. Rychcik noted that Silver- man moves her pitches well. "I think about over the course of her in- nings, scrimmages and innings she got in games, and there were only two balls that come to mind that were hit really hard: one was a home run at East Carolina and an- other was by Tyler Ross in a scrimmage," the coach noted. Rychcik stated the expectations are, as always, to make the NCAA Tournament "and see what happens." Above all else, he is hoping to get a little luck on the injury front because of his short-handed roster. "We can't afford to lose a lot of players, and if it does [happen] it's going to be quite the challenge," he said. ■ Noting The Pack • Head coach Shawn Rychcik noted that re- cruiting in collegiate softball tends to be centered around freshmen and sophomores in high school. Thus the 2017 class that Rychcik signed in No- vember may be the first that he had a full cycle to recruit. "We're really excited about this class," Rychcik said. "Most of these kids have been waiting four years to get to their signing day and we still have another year until they get on campus, but we're really happy to get to this point with them. "We thought we identified some really good tal- ent, and we've watched them grow and mature the past few years. We're excited about where they're at and the impact they'll have on our program." The five-player group is a heralded collection. ranked them the No. 19 class in the country and No. 3 in the ACC. Four of the five are rated among the top 112 seniors nationally by, headlined by top-50 recruit Chandley Garner, a shortstop at North Stokes High in Lawsonville, N.C. • Rychcik has one new assistant coach. Kirin Ku- mar was a former star at Georgia Tech who helped the Yellow Jackets win a pair of ACC titles. She had coached previously at Tulsa and North Carolina, and Kumar will be NC State's hitting coach and in charge of the team's defense. Key Players To Watch Junior infielder Alyssa Compton Compton has started 99 of 103 games she played since arriving on campus and hit .263 as a sophomore. She has the versatility to play third base, shortstop or second base, and this season she will likely play both third and second on a regular basis. Senior catcher Molly Hutchison In each of her three seasons at NC State, Hutchison has crushed double-digit home runs from the plate, including a personal-best of 13 as a sophomore and 11 a season ago. She has also bettered her batting average each year: .255 as a freshman, .271 as a sophomore and .329 as a junior. Senior outfielder Tyler Ross The two-time all-conference selection has a chance to leave her mark as one of the best softball players in program history. She hit .309 with 14 home runs, 55 RBI and nine stolen bases as a sophomore in 2015. A season later she hit .380 with 18 homers, 50 RBI and 27 steals. ■ By The Numbers 70 Combined career homers hit by senior out- fielder Tyler Ross (36) and senior catcher Molly Hutchison (34). Both are within striking distance of Jen Chamberlin's 49 for second most in program history. 72 Home runs hit by the Pack last season, second most in the ACC. ■ Key Games • Vs. Michigan, Feb. 17-18 — The Wolverines are coming to Raleigh as part of the ACC/Big Ten Chal- lenge doubleheader. Michigan is a perennial national power and reached the Women's College World Series last year. After U-M, NCSU will host Minnesota. • Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, Feb. 23-25 — Included among the five games NC State will play at Cathedral City, Calif., are defending national champion Oklahoma and World Series participant UCLA. • Vs. Notre Dame, April 14-15 — The Irish were one of two ACC teams to be nationally ranked in the coaches' poll at the end of last season, joining Florida State, which the Pack will not play during the regular season. Newcomer To Watch Freshman pitcher Peyton Silverman The two-time all-state pitcher at South Windsor (Conn.) High was selected to the Premier Girls Fastpitch All-American team as a senior. The left- hander will be counted upon to take an immediate role on the pitching staff hoping to bounce back after an injury-marred campaign a year ago. Senior catcher Molly Hutchison has hit at least 10 home runs in every season at NC State thus far. PHOTO BY LARRY BLANKENSHIP

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