COLLECCHIO, Italy — Former North Carolina Central University pitcher Courtney Mirabella has continued her playing career by signing a professional contract with the Labadini Collecchio club in the Italian Softball League shortly after concluding her collegiate career with the Lady Eagles in May.
“It’s an amazing opportunity that I just couldn’t say no to,” said Mirabella. “I get to live in Italy for a little while!”
Mirabella joins the AI series of the Italian Softball League after posting a record-setting senior season at NCCU. She has immediately made an impact for Collecchio with a complete-game victory in her first start, which featured 12 strikeouts.
After leading the Lady Eagles to a program-best, third place tournament finish in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Softball Championship by tossing three consecutive postseason wins in early May, Mirabella quickly signed her professional contract later in the month. She has relocated nearly 4,500 miles from Durham, North Carolina, to the Northern Italian city of Collecchio, which is near Parma and sits pretty evenly between Milan to the north and Florence to the south.
“It’s amazing for her to go over to Italy and play for team Collecchio,” said NCCU head coach Vashion Johnson. “The Italian coaches were wondering if she would be fresh after pitching so much [at NCCU] and I was like, ‘she is a workhorse and ready to go.’ She is an amazing ball player.”
Mirabella made an impressive debut for Collecchio, picking up a 3-2 win against Taurus Old Parma. She only allowed five hits over her seven innings of work and her 12 K’s in the complete game is the most by the five Collecchio pitchers through 10 games.
The First Team All-MEAC honoree has batted in two games and is 2 for 6 for a .333 average. Mirabella, who joined the team late during the squads’ first 10-game segment, will have a chance to play more when play resumes this coming Saturday. Collecchio (5-5 Overall) is scheduled for 30 more regular season games that is spread out until the end of September. She will have an opportunity to come home during a midseason break.
Mirabella has been in contact with the Italian National Coach and she could have the opportunity to play for the national team with strong play over the summer. She is in the process of proving her family ancestry is Italian and will need to become a dual resident as well. Both of her parents come from Italian lineage.
Johnson sent Miraballa a series of text messages later than usual one night to start the process of informing her about the chance of extending her playing career. She initially thought she was in trouble, but quickly found out the exciting news that Italy had interest in her as a player. Mirabella was able to talk with the pitching coach and it eventually led to her signing a contract with Collecchio a week after NCCU’s season wrapped up. She even found out that the Italian eyes had been on her for a while, beginning with her playing time at North Carolina State University before transferring to NCCU for her final season.
The resident of Bradenton, Florida, is traveling outside the United States for the first time as a professional softball player. Mirabella expressed that she was excited for the opportunity before leaving in May, but felt it was going to be a big change. She expects to travel a lot with the team during her down time, allowing her to see and explore much of the country. Her parents and sister will most likely visit her as well. Mirabella, who only knew English and Spanish until this spring, has an app on her phone to help learn Italian.
Mirabella had an outstanding senior season at NCCU. She tallied 18 wins with a 1.66 ERA, 306 strikeouts, 10 shutouts and a .194 opponent batting average. All of those numbers were tops in the MEAC and are new NCCU Division I era records (since 2007-08). Her 306 K’s is an all-time program record. The Lady Eagles’ team MVP was named NCCU Female Athlete of the Year for her record-setting campaign.
“Courtney is the definition of a great teammate,” said Johnson. “She did a great job of leading the team, both on and off the field. Don’t let the numbers skew what she does as a teammate and as a fire starter, who gets her teammates to rally behind her. She is a great pitcher and a great person for the underclassmen to look at and say that’s what we need to do for the following years.”
NCCU finished its season at 20-26 overall, which is its first 20-win season at the DI ranks. The Lady Eagles posted their first winning league record of 8-7 since joining the MEAC in 2011-12 and their 3-2 run in the MEAC Tourney is a new best finish of third place.