Freshmen Bisi, Parshall at home with Penn State softball
The accelerated progression of a pair of local freshman softball players at Penn State has been a combined effort.
Chelsea Bisi watches Bailey Parshall pitch with the same southpaw flair she displayed so often at Belle Vernon.
Parshall, in turn, looks on as Bisi hits gap shots and swats high fly balls over the fence like she did at Derry.
The former WPIAL standouts from Westmoreland County are leading the charge for the Nittany Lions, adding their names to the Big Ten Rookie of the Year ballot with productive debut seasons.
And to the point about combined effort: Not only are they friends, they are roommates.
“We have made a very strong bond,” Parshall said. “I’m happy we have been able to contribute to our team’s success together.”
Bisi had a slow start to the season and her college career, as she battled a series of knee injuries, none of which required surgery but stunted her advancement nonetheless.
With no visible after-effects from those setbacks, Bisi is hitting with power, purpose and confidence. Through 31 games, she had a .333 average with a team-best eight home runs and 21 RBIs for Penn State (18-19, 2-5 Big Ten).
The third baseman and outfielder was second on the team in total bases (55).
She missed most of her senior season at Derry after hitting a remarkable .706 as a junior.
“The key to coming back from an injury is staying positive throughout the entire recovery process,” she said, “while also giving yourself enough time to heal. Staying confident was the most important thing for me.”
Parshall had seven wins in her first 29 appearances — 17 starts and something new: relief appearances — and was among the Big Ten leaders in strikeouts with 142 (against 31 walks). She had six complete games and a 2.74 ERA.
The two-time WPIAL strikeouts queen never has had a problem with competition. But she said adjusting to daily lineup of good hitters has kept her head on a swivel and her attention deadpanned ahead.
“One of the biggest differences between college and high school is that every batter is going to swing hard and make contact, and there isn’t a question about it,” Parshall said. “I constantly have to be on my A-game, and if I’m not, it shows.”
She struck out 15 against Detroit Mercy, 13 against Syracuse and 12 vs. Coastal Carolina. She had 23 strikeouts on two occasions in high school.
Still, Parshall said her performance has only been “OK.” Overpowering hitters sometimes takes a backseat to simply getting an out.
“My goals this season were to gain experience, attack the zone, prove myself, and contribute to the team success,” Parshall said. “My fall season was a very humbling experience for me, and it really set the tone for what I wanted to accomplish over the winter.”
Bisi had three-RBI games against St. Joseph’s and Pitt. Seven of her homers have come during the last 15 games. She homered in back-to-back games against St. Francis (Pa.).
“My main goal for this season was to make an impact and contribute to the team,” Bisi said. “Obviously, I didn’t have the ideal start to the season, but our entire team put in a lot of work during the offseason so I’m glad that it has been paying off.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .