They started fast by winning their first 11 games of the year, including the Costa Mesa tournament.
They ended strong in one of the toughest softball leagues around, battling first Edison then Fountain Valley to scoreless ties deep into the game before finally succumbing.
A main reason why the Newport Harbor High softball team was in those Sunset League games, in most of its games this year, was because of the player in the circle.
Hattie Marshall was not only her team's best pitcher, but pretty much the Sailors' only pitcher. She also was her team's best hitter.
Marshall, a junior, is the pick for 2012 Newport-Mesa Player of the Year in softball.
"Offensively, I think she led us in every category other than runs and stolen bases," Sailors Coach Russell Hartman said. "She did everything. She led in batting average (.422), RBIs (26), doubles (five), triples (four) and home runs (six). And that's not even counting what she did for us in the circle. She was pretty impressive this year."
The power numbers led Newport-Mesa players, and Marshall was second in batting average. The pitching numbers are also impressive, especially considering the teams Newport Harbor played in league. Of the Sailors' 183 innings played this year, Marshall pitched 155 of them. She finished with a 10-15 record, a 3.52 earned-run average and 72 strikeouts.
Newport Harbor (11-17, 0-10 in league) still has not won a league game since 2007. But Marshall gave her team a chance.
The Sailors suffered a 1-0 loss to Edison on April 26, only losing when the Chargers scored in the seventh inning. Yes, that's the same Edison team that went on to make the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals and finished the year ranked as California's No. 7 Division 1 team, as ranked by Cal-Hi Sports. League champion Los Alamitos finished the year ranked No. 14 in the state.
Two weeks later against Fountain Valley, the Sailors again nearly broke through. They lost to the Barons, 5-0, in 14 innings; the game was scoreless for the first 13 innings.
"That last time going through league, every game we felt like we were in it," Hartman said. "We were competitive. That was a huge improvement from where we were at before ... [Marshall] handled it very well. She went into every game knowing that it had to be her. No matter what happened, we were going to ride her, good or bad. I guess that put a lot of pressure on her, but she handled it great."
She was a leader on a team with no seniors who received significant playing time, a team which lost three Dream Team players from the year before. That included Marshall's battery-mate from last year, 2011 Newport-Mesa Player of the Year Bella Secaira, who transferred to Marina.
Marshall still came up big. She pitched a three-hitter to help the Sailors beat rival Corona del Mar, 2-1, winning the Battle of the Bay for the fifth straight year. Newport Harbor also made the semifinals of the Savanna tournament.
Marshall also earned first-team All-Sunset League honors for the first time.
"I worked a lot harder this year," Marshall said. "I pitched almost every single day, to keep in shape and stuff, and I worked out more. I feel like I needed to work harder, because [my teammates] needed me. I needed to step up in a big way. I'm the first person the hitter sees when they get up to the plate, and they have to beat me to get on. I wanted to beat them.
"I feel like our team as a whole decided, they wanted this. We wanted it more. We wanted to win so bad."
And Marshall can look forward to her senior year, as one when she expects the Sailors to continue to progress.
"I'm really proud of what we accomplished this year, and I can't wait for next year," she said. "I have a feeling it's going to be a good year next year."
Three of Marshall's Newport Harbor teammates join her on the Dream Team, as well as six players from Corona del Mar, Estancia and Costa Mesa. Here's a look at the rest of this year's squad:
Corona del Mar
First-year Coach Kiki Muñoz said the senior was a vocal leader for the Sea Kings (9-16, 0-10 in the Pacific Coast League). Owen also provided a big bat, as she finished second on CdM with a .421 average and tied for the team lead with 16 RBIs. She had a team-best eight doubles. As a pitcher, she was 1-6 with a 5.49 earned-run average, but kept teams off-balance with her movement.
Owen, who is headed to Texas Christian University for academics, also played third base. She was a second-team All-Pacific Coast League selection and is a repeat Dream Team honoree.
Gandi, a team captain, also provided plenty of leadership for the Sailors. The junior moved from second base to shortstop and was excellent defensively.
Gandi, better known as "Lou," hit a solo home run in the Sailors' 2-1 Battle of the Bay win over CdM. For the year, the second-team All-Sunset League selection batted .218 and was second on the team with 14 RBIs. She also had two home runs, two doubles and two triples.
Reynolds, the Eagles' only travel-ball player this year, was unquestionably the leader for Estancia (9-18, 4-6 in league). The junior first baseman led the team with a .452 batting average, three home runs and 32 runs batted in. She also provided inspiration in the way she cares for her sick mother.
Estancia Coach Marcus Franco, who resigned after the season, said he could definitely see Reynolds playing at the next level. She was a first-team All-Orange Coast League pick and is a repeat Dream Team selection.
A junior first baseman, Settles was a ray of light in a tough year for the Mustangs (2-21, 2-8 in league). Though statistics weren't available, Coach JP Hamilton said Settles, a first-team All-Orange Coast League selection, had about a .300 average.
Settles, also a first-team all-league basketball player, was the leadoff hitter for Mesa.
Corona del Mar
The senior catcher and shortstop finished off a sparkling four-year career for the Sea Kings, offensively and defensively. Susolik, who will play at Kenyon College in Ohio, led CdM with an area-best .442 batting average and four home runs, both of which were second in the league. She was third on CdM with 10 runs batted in and also had an .846 slugging percentage, tops on the team and in the league.
Over her four-year career, she batted a combined .416. Susolik is a repeat Dream Team selection.
Lopez, a third baseman and outfielder, was a team captain. Defensively, the junior was rock-solid for Hartman's Sailors.
Lopez hit .306, second on Newport Harbor, and also led the Sailors in runs scored (22) and steals (11). She was only caught stealing once all year.
Vernon, a sophomore, was a leader at catcher for the Eagles. The first-team All-Orange Coast League selection was second on the team with a .400 average, as well as tied for second with nine stolen bases. Her five doubles also tied her with Reynolds for the team lead.
Franco said Vernon, also a varsity basketball player, played very confidently behind the backstop for Estancia. Teams had trouble stealing on her in league, and a widened stance helped her offensively.
Corona del Mar
Penna, a sophomore, started every game at first base or pitcher for the Sea Kings. The soft-spoken player was nevertheless a leader for CdM, showing poise as she has battled through scoliosis.
Very solid defensively, Penna also batted .253 and tied for the team lead with 16 RBIs. She pitched just 15 innings but led CdM's four pitchers with a 1.87 earned-run average.
The only freshman on the Dream Team, Blanchfield earned the spot with her play. The left fielder was the Sailors' leadoff hitter, a big responsibility, but she came through often against big-time competition.
Blanchfield's grand slam helped Newport Harbor rally for a 7-5 victory over Huntington Beach in the championship game of the Costa Mesa tournament. She batted .244, which was fourth on the team, and had seven RBIs.