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Duke softball players were eager to get on the field for their first-ever game.

The Chronicle's top 10 sports stories of 2017: Duke softball plays its first game

With the end of 2017 quickly approaching, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest sports stories of the year. Each day, The Blue Zone will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year in Blue Devil athletics.

Coming in at No. 9 on our list: Duke softball playing its first game in program history

A year ago, Duke softball was only a building project on East Campus.

Now, the Blue Devils have proven they are capable of competing in the ACC. 

The new team took the field at Duke Softball Stadium for the first time Sept. 30 and led most of the game against N.C. State—a team that made the semifinals in the ACC tournament last season and has a top-20 recruiting class.  

A crowd of more than 1,300 packed the stadium with a capacity of just 500, spread out across the grass beyond the outfield fence and along the first base line, chanting "Let's go Duke" throughout the game. 

“I can already tell you we have the best fans in the ACC, and this was the first game,” sophomore Raine Wilson said

Duke held the Wolfpack scoreless until the sixth inning when a two-run home run from Cheyenne Balzer tied the game at 2-2. N.C. State broke open scoring in the eighth inning, scoring four runs, three off bases-loaded walks.  

The Blue Devils' rebuttal? The first home run in school history, launched off the bat of freshman Hannah Pridemore. 

Even though Duke ended up falling to the Wolfpack 8-3, the sheer fact that it was on the field plastered a smile across almost every single face on the team. If the game had been a seven-inning regular-season game, the Blue Devils would have taken the Wolfpack to extra innings. 

“I shouldn’t be this happy about losing, because I’ve never been this happy with a loss in my life,” Wilson said. “There’s no other girls I’d want to play with. Yeah, I’m smiling. You’ll never catch me smiling again after a loss, I’ll tell you that.”

Duke hadn't added a sport since 1998 when it added rowing—until softball became varsity sport No. 27 on campus. The Blue Devils announced in 2015 that they would be creating a softball program, allowing head coach Marissa Young, a former Big Ten Player of the Year at Michigan, two years to assemble a squad. 

And the group that she has put together appears to be strong—she reeled in the No. 9 overall 2017 recruiting class. Although the team is a small one, with just 16 players on the roster, the group has a lot of talent, with four players in the top 76 of that class coming to Durham. And the future is bright—the signing class of 2018 includes nine players and is ranked No. 13 in the country. 

Half of the roster is either listed as playing multiple positions or as a utility player, leaving Young with a lot of flexibility to manage her team. 

"We'll all mix a lot throughout the season to find different combinations that work for each game," freshman catcher and outfielder Jazmine Moreno said. "But I think we have a lot of diversity position-wise." 

Regardless of who will be playing where and in what capacity, Young has been excited to get going for a long time. 

"I’m just ready to get on the field," Young said in March. "It really is your baby and you want to put everything into it so that you know you’ve put your heart and soul into making sure things are the best possible.... You’ve put so much time into meetings and details about every little thing and now I just want to get out and go play."

READ MORE on the new team: 

An update on Duke softball less than a year before competition begins

Duke softball takes the field for first exhibition ever in front of more than 1,000 fans

Duke softball head coach Young fills out coaching staff, inks first 4 recruits

Check back tomorrow to see what ranks as No. 8 in our countdown of the top 10 Duke sports stories of the year. 

A look at the rest of our top 10 countdown to date:

No. 10: Men's soccer makes first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011

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