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Nordberg Buys In To North Carolina State's Home Run Mindset

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(Graphics Courtesy of Don Olea)

Brigette Nordberg stepped into the box to lead off the bottom of the fourth against then-No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 10. Alyssa Denham left a pitch over the outer half, and Nordberg deposited it over the right-field fence to give North Carolina State a one-run lead. Her homer would stand as the game-winning run in the Wolfpack’s 4-1 upset.

That home run was her second of the season in just her fourth game with N.C. State. Since then, she’s added nine more and is tied for second place in Division I. She was also named Co-Player of the Week by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association for the week of Feb. 25- March 3 (eight home runs, 19 RBIs, 2.323 slugging).

It took her 91 games in two years at Maryland to hit the same amount.

“I hit a good amount of home runs in travel ball but not a major amount,” Nordberg said. “Coming here and out of the gate hitting 11 is crazy to me.”

Nordberg, a junior, knew she needed a change of pace over the summer. She remembered playing against Saint Francis (Pa.) three times during her sophomore year and took note of the strength of the Red Flash offense.

Maryland and Saint Francis matched up three times in 2018, and Nordberg clearly left an impression. Jennifer Patrick-Swift and Patrick Swift, the coaches at Saint Francis at the time, moved to N.C. State before the 2019 season and remembered what they’d seen from Nordberg the year before.

“When we played against her at Saint Francis, numbers-wise she didn’t stand out off the charts,” Patrick-Swift said, “but we knew she stood out as somebody that could play.”

Just after the Swifts were announced as the new coaches at N.C. State, Nordberg decided to transfer from Maryland.

“She reached out to us and said she loved how we played,” Patrick-Swift said. “She loved how our girls swing the bat and how everyone was getting after it. She wanted to know if we would take her and I remembered who she was right away and thought, ‘Yeah, we can work with her.’”

Nordberg learned quickly that with a lot of work she could fit her game to the Swifts’ power-heavy style. The swing they taught wasn’t exactly built on muscle memory and took a lot of repetition to perfect.

“They changed everything,” Nordberg said. “We took about a week in the beginning just breaking it down, then we took another week (not even hitting front toss) doing tee work and drill work, just making sure that we’re feeling it. Now that we’re in season, we do a little more BP but there are some days that we just go back to the fundamentals and work on everything we did in the fall to make sure that we’re still feeling the swing.”

The swing itself is about body movement and timing. It’s one continuous motion from beginning to end with an open stance and heavy wrist action upon contact. For the individual, it’s also about swinging at balls she knows she can hit out whether it’s a strike or a ball. Patrick-Swift calls it, “an individualized home run zone.”

“I’ve always been load and then go, but their (swing) is just one continuous motion,” Nordberg said. “Working through the ball and having all that momentum working in your favor. I was open before I came here but chest over the ball, leaning over the plate is new. Everything except my feet is basically all new.”

Nordberg’s success has spread throughout the lineup, which has produced 30 home runs in 18 games from nine different players. That total is just six fewer than N.C. State hit all off last season.

Any player can hit it out at any time. The coaches know that, the players are coming around on it and the fans are starting to lean in a little bit when the Pack is at bat.

“It just shows how much work we’re putting in on the side,” Nordberg said. “Everyone should be afraid of playing N.C. State. We can all hit home runs, and if you leave it over the plate we’re going to hit it out.”

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