In the end, the Marshall High softball team’s aspirations of capturing the program’s first district title since 1976 fell just short. But the Statesmen have made an outstanding late season run to shake things up in the always strong Liberty District.
Marshall (12-9) lost its district tournament finals game to Stone Bridge 3-1, on Monday night, May 18. The championship game took place at Madison High School.
The Statesmen, who finished in the middle of the district standings during the regular season with a 7-7 record, have put things together over the latter portions of the season. They will be a team to watch at the upcoming Northern Region playoffs, set to begin later this week.
Marshall closed the regular season with back-to-back district wins over Thomas Jefferson and South Lakes to finish .500 in the district standings. Then, in the district tournament, the Statesmen’s’ momentum continued as the team defeated Langley, 1-0, and top-seeded McLean, 4-1, in eight innings to reach the finals against Stone Bridge.
<b>EARLIER THIS SEASON</b> when uniforms were being handed out, someone grabbed hold of an old, red Marshall softball jersey. Soon, the nostalgic uniform top became the rallying cry for this year’s team. Before games all season long, the Marshall players have raised the jersey and recited the following chant: "When’s the last time we won the district?"
The response is always "1976."
Then, "When are we going to win again?" And the response, "2009."
Marshall almost pulled it off. But district runner-up is not such a bad thing for a program that has known limited success over the years.
"Since the first game, they’ve been carrying [the old jersey] around. Winning the district has been a focus for us since day one," said second-year head coach Laura Campbell. "I think this team has started to play well as a unit."
During Campbell’s first season at the helm in 2008, Marshall finished 8-10-1. But the Statesmen have improved their offensive production this season, and they are playing a crisper game in the field. The result has been a winning season, a run to the district finals and a berth in the region playoffs. A year ago, Marshall missed out on qualifying for the regionals after a first round district tournament loss to Langley.
Campbell credits her four team captains, senior second baseman Elizabeth Stonehill, junior catcher Michelle Tilson, junior center fielder Olivia Ellis and senior third baseman Tricia Wallace, with guiding the Statesmen to high achievements this season.
"They’ve been helpful in getting the younger girls in line as far as expectations for the team," said Campbell. "They’ve really stepped up as leaders."
In her team’s district semifinals win over McLean, Wallace singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning to give the Statesmen a 2-1 lead on way to the 4-1 victory.
<b>THREE MARSHALL PLAYERS</b> earned recent First Team All-Liberty District accolades in Tilson (catcher), junior first baseman Lauren Sanata and junior pitcher Christine Grilliot (at-large selection).
On the mound, Grilliot has been a model of consistency and hard work. Catcher Tilson calls the pitches from behind the plate and Grilliot executes them.
"She’s been really consistent all year in hitting her spots and keeping batters off balance," said Campbell, of the pitching ace.
At the plate this season, Grilliot has led the Statesmen in RBIs.
Tilson, meanwhile, has led the team in batting and extra base hits. She has knocked three home runs.
Two other Marshall players earned All-District recognition: Stonehill at second base (Second Team) and Ellis in center field (Honorable Mention).
"This is a team that has really come together and played as a team," said Campbell, a former collegiate softball player at Slippery Rock University (Pa.). "Our hitting has really done well. We’ve been aggressive at the plate."