Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week: Sailors' Marshall shoulders load

The losses tend to add up for the Newport Harbor High softball team.

The Sailors have lost 42 straight Sunset League games since 2007.

Newport Harbor had no seniors last year, but this year's squad still lost several key players.

With odds appearing to be stacked against the team, one person who does not panic is junior pitcher Hattie Marshall. In fact, she has a football analogy ready to go for the Sailors' situation.

"When you lose a big part of your team, you need other people to step up," said Marshall, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week. "I guess you can kind of compare it to how the Colts didn't really step up when they lost Peyton Manning. They didn't do too well this year, and that kind of shows how a team can fold under when you lose a big part of your team.

"But we didn't fold. Everybody has stepped up and done what they needed to do, and look at the outcome."

The outcome has been great. The losses don't matter when you look at Newport Harbor's record so far this year. There are no losses there; the team is 7-0.

Marshall is a big reason why. She is batting .478 with a team-best 12 runs batted in, three doubles, three triples and a home run. She won all five games at the Costa Mesa tournament, helping the Sailors capture the title over league foe Huntington Beach, 7-5, on March 10. Her earned-run average this year is just 1.63.

"I think she's pitching with a lot of confidence right now," first-year Coach Russell Hartman said. "Her defense is doing well behind her, and I think she realizes that. She's just going at hitters. She's hitting her spots really well."

Marshall pitched a one-hitter in a big 4-0 nonleague win over perennial powerhouse Ocean View on Tuesday, also connecting on a solo home run to straightaway center. She is off to a hot start this year for the Sailors.

Marshall said the whole team is playing well. It has been necessary. Newport Harbor had four Newport-Mesa Dream Team selections last year, and she is the only one left.

She said Bella Secaira, the 2011 Newport-Mesa Player of the Year as a sophomore catcher, no longer attends Newport Harbor. Marshall said Secaira moved to Huntington Beach and now attends Marina High. Savannah Caviston, another Dream Team selection last year as a freshman first baseman and pitcher, still attends Newport Harbor but now rows crew, Marshall said.

Mandy LeGault, the Sailors' junior shortstop and leadoff hitter last year, moved to Atascadero.

Marshall has felt the absence of those players.

"I feel like I've had to step up a lot more," she said. "We did lose a pitcher, and we lost a defensive catcher ... it's hard. I always have to be on. There's no one behind me. If I'm not on, no one can come in. I mean, Lou [junior infielder Lauren Gandi] is the backup pitcher, but she's a second baseman. I've just been working every day to keep in shape, and practicing pitching."

Everyone has adjusted a bit. Freshman Zoey Myers has stepped in as her battery mate behind the plate. Gandi, a team captain, has moved from second base to shortstop out of necessity, with junior Hanna Van Voorhis and freshman Jordan Blanchfield at second. Marshall said junior Breanna Lopez, the team's other captain, has moved from third base to outfield because that's where she was needed.

Blanchfield, Myers, Shea Horvath and Jessica Ochoa are the Sailors' four talented freshmen. Blanchfield (batting .560) and Myers (.533) are the team's leading hitters this season.

"Our freshmen have stepped up so much and added so much to the team," Marshall said.

It will take a team effort from the Sailors the rest of the way, for sure. The Savanna Tournament begins March 24, the Battle of the Bay game against rival CdM is March 29 and then the Sailors are in the prestigious Woodbridge Tournament. And, oh yeah, four of the top 10 teams in the county — Los Alamitos, Marina, Edison and Fountain Valley — reside in the Sunset League.

Marshall can give the Sailors confidence in tough situations. She changed travel-ball teams to the SoCal Strikkers, where she is coached by former All-Americans Susie Parra (Arizona) and Kim Wuest (UCLA). Parra was a pitcher who led Arizona to three NCAA titles in the early 1990s and was the 1994 National Player of the Year.

Marshall also credits her longtime pitching coach, Chrissy Haines.

"The pieces are kind of falling in for me," Marshall said. "I think I'm more confident in myself than I was last year. Instead of second-guessing myself, I feel like 'Hey, I can do this.' "

That's how the Sailors feel about breaking that league losing streak. And they have confidence they can do it after coming from behind to beat the Oilers last weekend.

"It's kind of surreal what we're doing right now," Marshall said. "We're all on right now. It's definitely a team effort. If my defense isn't on, it doesn't help me, and the hitting has been incredible. No one's struggling right now."

Somehow, the Sailors don't seem worried about the losses anymore.


Twitter: @mjszabo

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