By Collin Brennan
If you look up the definition of “ace” in the dictionary you will find that it is someone who excels at particular sport or activity. A master at their craft. Someone who is in control. CNU softball starting pitcher Hanah Marshall is the embodiment of an ace for the Captains’ pitching staff.
With a career ERA of 2.82, a win-loss record of 34-7, and 191 strikeouts in 288 innings pitched, Marshall has been the rock of the CNU’s pitching staff over the last three years. Being in control on the mound, overpowering opposing hitters with 60 MPH fastballs, and playing the role of ace comes naturally to Marshall.
“My work up to this point has prepared me to go out there everyday,” says Marshall. “My mindset is I need start out on top and I need to make them hit my pitches so that ultimately we can get quicker outs and get out of the inning.”
At 5-7, the senior southpaw from Powhatan, Virginia, carries a presence on the mound that demands your attention and respect. When Marshall is starting, the Captains know a win is just a few runs away.
“On the mound it becomes a game of numbers. Every time you throw a strike you increase your chances of getting them out with your pitch,” says Marshall. “If you get behind in the count you become more predictable with what you are going to pitch and the hitter has the advantage. My mentality on the mound is to make the hitters hit my pitch.”
Marshall credits her work ethic and attitude as a direct result from a decade of committing herself to the sport she loves. At the age of 12, Marshall began playing softball competitively for a travel team- the Richmond Rampage. It was there when she realized she had the potential to be a starting pitcher.
“I am left handed, automatically that limits where you can play on the field. I started pitching and really picked it up,” says Marshall. “From an early age I could always throw the ball really really hard.
“At first I really had no control over the ball, but people kept telling me ‘stick with it, you have a lot of potential, you are left handed’ so I listened and stuck with it. Once I got the hang of it I really liked it.”
With the Rampage, Marshall began to hone her craft as a pitcher and helped lead the team to back-to-back state titles her junior and senior year of high school.
“[Playing for the Rampage] I fell in love with the competitive nature of the position- you get to control the game at your own pace and it all falls on you. I really liked having that pressure.”
While winning state titles on the mound, Marshall earned academic awards off of it, giving her a plethora of colleges recruiting her to join their pitching staffs.
“[My senior year] I made the mistake of touring CNU first and absolutely fell in love with it. Every school I toured after it just didn’t compare so it made my decision pretty easy,” says Marshall. “My freshman year at CNU I was the only freshman pitcher on a staff with four seniors- a situation you don’t see very often in college sports.”
Marshall says the seniors took her under their wing and showed her what it would take to be a successful student athlete at CNU. By her sophomore year, Marshall was quickly becoming the Captains’ best pitcher- posting a 2.81 ERA, going 10-3, and pitching 9 complete games.
“Honestly it was the seniors my freshman year who prepared me to become a team leader as quickly as I did. They taught me the importance of a work ethic and keeping a positive attitude,” says Marshall.
As the ace of the staff, Marshall understands that she sets the tone for the team when she pitches. As a senior, she has seen it all and realizes having the right mindset can have a trickle down affect on her teammates.
“Sometimes you are going to fall short and that is just part of the game. Softball is often called “a game of errors” so having a positive attitude and trusting your abilities will make the difference,” says Marshal. “Being a team leader is about remaining positive when things are going wrong.”
Despite being a pitcher- a position where success often comes in isolation- Marshall understands the importance of putting her teammates ahead of herself. A trait that she says defines her off the field as well.
“I always live with is the mindset of saying humble, staying kind. I am the type of person where I try to put my teammates first. I follow the golden rule of always treating people the way you want to be treated.”
After a decade plus devoted to long road trips, sunflower seeds, and strikeouts, Marshall is keenly aware that her days in competitive softball are numbered. Being a Division-III athlete and playing a sport like softball- one with little to no opportunities to play professionally- Marshall understands her senior year is the last opportunity to play the sport she loves at a high level.
“When you play softball you know when the end is. It is not like baseball where there is a chance you can get drafted. Going into D-III sports you know it is going to be four years, it is going to be fun, and it is going to come to an end eventually. It is definitely going to be a sad day but I am ready to get started in the next phase of my life .”
Like every other senior who sees the calendar turning to April, Marshall is counting the days to graduation, but knows there is still work to be done on the field and potential for a storybook ending to her senior season.
“The goal is a national championship of course. Our team definitely has the potential to do it. Being on this team for four years I can say this a group of girls that is best equipped to do it.”
When asked what she expects in the next phase of her life, Marshall has a quiet confidence about the future- knowing the work ethic and skills she has developed on the mound can carry to other parts of her life. With one month left in her academic life, she already has a job lined up after school.
“I am moving to Northern Virginia once I graduate, I got a job with Ferguson and I will be in their sales training program. I am excited, but it is definitely going to be a change of pace, moving from a really small town to Northern Virginia. It is definitely going to provide a good opportunity for me to grow”
Marshall says the transition from CNU to Northern Virginia will be the biggest transition in her life, but all her days on the mound have instilled a mentality that has prepared her for any professional work environment.
“I am used to having to report somewhere everyday at a certain time. I know the duties and task I need to get done everyday to be successful. Of course it will be different in a sense, but I know will be able to translate those skills I learned in softball to my job.”
Judging by her stats, work ethic, and academic standing there is nothing that suggests Marshall won’t succeed in any of her future endeavors. After all she is the definition of an ace- meaning failure is simply not a part of her vocabulary.