Hattie Marshall knows that her Newport Harbor High girls' softball team is young this year, with no seniors.
Marshall also knows that the Sunset League, with perennial powers like Marina, Edison and Los Alamitos, is one of the toughest leagues in Southern California for softball.
But neither of these facts really bother her. More than anything, they're motivation for the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week.
"I really want to win in the Sunset League so badly," Marshall said. "I just want to beat someone. That's our goal."
The odds are not in the favor of the Sailors, who have lost 32 straight league games since defeating Fountain Valley in 2007. Marshall, a sophomore pitcher, shows a certain maturity on the subject.
She wants Newport Harbor softball to keep growing and growing. She has helped the Sailors to a 7-1 start, including beating Back Bay rival Corona del Mar last week and finishing fifth in the 20-team Costa Mesa Tournament.
The one loss was to Yorba Linda, 4-2. Marshall doesn't mind that, either.
"You know, we'd been playing easy teams," she said. "Yorba Linda was kind of a peek for the freshman about how the Sunset League's going to be. We're so much more driven now, and we know how hard we need to work. We've been playing easy teams that we were scoring 25 runs on, and it's not going to be like that. We've just got to be ready for the bigger picture, basically."
Marshall is a rising star for Newport Harbor. Through the Costa Mesa Tournament, she led the team with a .632 batting average. On the mound, she was 3-1 with a 2.10 earned-run average.
The travel-ball player with Irvine Sting takes her softball seriously. She's been playing since the first grade. Last year, she helped the Sting 16-and-unders finish fifth in California and 49th at nationals, not bad for a team that was still supposed to be a 14U squad.
In high school, Marshall played a key role as a freshman, batting .390 in the middle of the order and sharing pitching duties with then-junior Alex Bauer. This year, Marshall has shouldered more of the load as Coach Tony Qualin's main pitcher after Bauer decided to quit playing softball and row crew.
"It was her decision," Marshall said. "We can't change it now. It was kind of a disappointment, but you've just got to overcome those obstacles."
Qualin knows he still has one of the best batteries around with Marshall and sophomore catcher Bella Secaira, who was a first-team All-Sunset League selection a year ago. He trusts Marshall, a power pitcher who is constantly working on her game.
"I knew Hattie was a really good hitter and defensive player," Qualin said. "I didn't know she'd blossom into such a good pitcher. We won the Whittier tournament last year, and she pitched the championship game. She was just very tough. She just bears down and gets it done; Hattie is very competitive."
She takes private lessons from her pitching coach, Chrissy Hartman-Haines, who played at Cal State Fullerton. Throughout her softball career she's also worked with her father, Brian, an assistant coach at Newport Harbor.
"He's been my coach since 6-and-unders," Hattie Marshall said. "He was my first softball coach. I don't know. He can be my worst enemy and my biggest fan at the same time. He pushes me so hard, to the point where I want to give up, but I understand it's from love. He wants the best for me.
"He's helped me out so much with everything, and he understands me. He gets heated when I do something wrong, but he only gets mad because he knows I can do better."
Brian and Hattie's mother, Shelley, do love their only child. Hattie said it's a big extended family, and she's close to her cousins as well.
She also draws inspiration from other places. When she was playing for her rec-ball team, Pacific Coast, she met former Angels pitcher Jim Abbott, who was born without a right hand.
"He was a coach in Pacific Coast," Marshall said. "He's a motivational speaker now, and he's one of the nicest people I've ever met. I remember when I broke my leg and I was crying at a clinic because I couldn't participate. I felt really bad, and he was like, 'I've had to overcome a bunch more obstacles. This is going to be easy for you. Don't even worry about it.'
"I remember doing a report on him in fifth grade; he sent me a picture and he told me about his life. Just his motivation of getting over that, he's just an inspiration. I've always looked up to him."
The Sailors have always looked up to their competition in league as well. But with league play beginning April 5, they're more looking to make their mark. They do have a freshman pitcher in Savannah Caviston, but Marshall can also handle her increased workload – with a little help.
"Ice is your best friend," she said. "I ice my arm after every game."
Born: Jan. 2, 1995
Hometown: Costa Mesa
Coach: Tony Qualin
Favorite food: Strawberries
Favorite movie: "The King's Speech"
Favorite athletic moment: "Probably when I got to throw out the opening pitch for my rec-ball team [Pacific Coast] two or three years ago. Kobe Bryant was there; his daughter plays there … [Newport Harbor teammate] Lauren Gandi caught the ball."
Week in review: The sophomore pitcher went 3-1 and also batted a team-best .632 as the Sailors placed fifth in the Costa Mesa Tournament and also beat rival CdM. Marshall was two for four with four RBIs in the 14-3 victory over the Sea Kings.