Plum 8th-grader Marston to compete in USSSA event in Florida
Plum middle school softball standout Maura Marston had a Memorial Day she won't soon forget.
Spending the holiday swimming with friends and family was secondary as Marston anxiously waited until 8 p.m. to hear her name called as a member of the U.S. Specialty Sports Association under-12 Northeast Region fast-pitch team. When the time finally came, Marston was a natural selection.
“I was all nervous, and all the sudden my name came up on the screen, and I went crazy,” said Marston, 13, a rising eighth grader. “At first, I said there is no way that is me. Then I heard ‘Maura Marston,' and I was screaming and jumping around. They were all really excited.”
Marston is one of 26 players who will make up two teams from the northeast region and compete in the 2017 USSSA's under-12 tournament at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Fla., from Aug. 1-6. The northeast region will compete against seven other regions from across the country.
“That was the greatest Memorial Day ever,” Marston said.
Marston may have been the only person who was surprised. Her travel ball coach, Everett Burns, suggested she try out against more than 130 other hopefuls, some of whom travelled from more than nine hours away, at the USSSA's Harrison City tryouts in May.
“I think that she is such a well-rounded player,” said Burns, who has coached Marston for the past three years as a member of the Passion under-12 team. “She's not a very big kid, but she hits with a lot of power, especially for her size.”
Marston, who has been given the nicknames “Guns” and “Smalls” by her Passion teammates, graded out as the top hitter at the Harrison City tryouts. When it came time to brush up on her hitting, Marston sought the advice of Plum Middle School coach Jesse Mallon.
“The one thing I told her was about her hitting,” Mallon said. “She went home, worked on it and almost corrected right away. I've coached travel ball for a long time at a high level, and for her age, I've never seen anybody as advanced as her in the game of fast-pitch.”
During the middle school season, Marston went the entire season — 53 plate appearances — without striking out. She finished with a .417 batting average with six doubles, two triples and 19 runs.
“I loved her from the minute I first seen her,” said Mallon, who just finished his first season with the middle school team. “There's no doubt in my mind that she's going to play college ball at some level.”
During the travel season, Marston holds a .524 batting average with six doubles, one home run, 38 runs and three strikeouts in 90 plate appearances.
“She's not your prototypical softball player,” Burns said. “They tend to be more of the bigger girls who can drive the ball. She gets a tremendous amount out of her body. She's in very good shape.”
Marston, who plays shortstop, outfield and pitches for the Mustangs, went to the tryout to land a spot in the outfield.
She finished the season with a 1.00 fielding percentage in center field for the Mustangs. Mallon said Marston has an uncanny ability to get a great read on the ball and come up with big catches.
“She probably had a handful of outfield assists this season,” Mallon said. “I can move her anywhere. The catches that she made in center field for us won several games this season.”
Despite making the team, Marston isn't taking anything for granted and understands the true test is yet to come.
“I want to be really focused,” Marston said.
William Whalen is a freelance writer.