After making a name for herself in relief, Paige Murray takes over as St. Charles North’s ace. ‘I’m confident.’

It’s a new beginning.

The past two seasons, closing time was spotlight time for St. Charles North’s Paige Murray. And the junior right-hander owned those moments, especially during the playoffs.

Murray teamed up with Ava Goettel as a formidable one-two punch in the circle for the North Stars, who won the 2022 Class 4A state title, reached a sectional last spring and went 49-11.

During that span, Murray closed out every postseason game, including picking up the wins in relief as a freshman during the state semifinal game and then for the state championship.

“She’s always seemed to be a little bit older maturity wise, just handling the situations she was put into on the softball field,” St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said. “She handled them like an upperclassman since she walked in the building. She’s just a very mature young lady.

“Paige and Ava worked well together. They were kind of the dynamic duo early on.”

With the graduation of Goettel, Murray is looking forward to her new role as the team’s No. 1 starter, although that was delayed Tuesday when the season opener at home was postponed because West Aurora had a number of players unavailable due to illness.

“It’s definitely going to be an adjustment without Ava,” Murray said. “This year is going to be different for me starting more, but I’m excited for it because I’m confident in our defense, too.”

Murray, who plays travel for the Silver Hawks Softball Association, has plenty of experience starting there as well as for her high school team.

“She does a great job,” Poulin said. “We gave her more innings last season than the year before and kind of saved Ava, who still had the most innings of the two.

“Paige did well. We put her in as the starter in some big games like Lake Park and St. Charles East early to help her grow. She handles every situation with ease.”

It’s something Poulin noticed about Murray early during her freshman year.

“She showed a lot from the second the season started, even before spring break, in our practices and scrimmages,” he said. “We had her in there in games pretty early and got her some innings.

“She showed she belonged.”

Murray went 12-2 as a freshman, totaling 97 strikeouts in 88 innings. She finished 5-2 as a sophomore with 77 strikeouts in 69 innings.

Poulin recalled how upperclassman Anastasia Pappas mentored Goettel early in her career, with Goettel and Murray doing the same last season with current sophomore Abby Zawadzki.

He’s also counting on junior Lauren Seyller, who’s pitched well for the JV team the past two years. to help develop depth.

“It’s nice to see, and I can remember it happening for us going back to 2011,” Poulin said.

Murray takes pitching lessons from Homer Glen-based Jonathan Hon, a certified fluid dynamics instructor in a system espoused by nationally known Denny Tincher.

“It’s like a style or type of pitching where it’s really using the ground and your legs more than your arm,” Murray said. “I focus on my speed and getting stronger, but I’ve always been more of a spin pitcher and that’s what I really focus on, especially with my curve and rise.

“But I continue to really focus on just hitting spots.”

Skyla Ritter, a senior and Murray’s bullpen catcher as a freshman, will catch her this season.

“I’ve known her forever and feel totally comfortable with her,” Murray said. “This year will be different, but freshman year, I had no idea we’d make it to state, so who knows?

“I hope we can continue the legacy of last year’s senior class. They were amazing, and all helped guide me as a freshman and the last two years. We’ll try to do the same.”