When high school spring sports were canceled because of the coronavirus, South Whidbey senior softball player Ari Marshall was denied the opportunity to complete a rare sweep — earning all-league honors in one sport all four years of high school.
Marshall, a four-year starter at catcher for the Falcons, was named all-Cascade Conference honorable mention as a freshman.
That year she was also named the team’s most valuable player and helped South Whidbey reach the state tournament, where she won a medal for sportsmanship.
As a sophomore, Marshall earned first-team, all-Cascade Conference honors, was selected as the Falcons’ most improved player and, again, helped the Falcons to a state tournament berth.
Last season, Marshall repeated her first-team honors, this time in the North Sound Conference, and served as the team captain.
Her rise to softball stardom began in middle school.
“I spent most of my youth until the end of middle school playing soccer,” she said. “I never loved soccer, but I loved the people who did it and I’m still friends with many of the people I played with.”
“Starting in seventh or eighth grade, I started playing softball and loved it,” she said.
Marshall actually picked up her first glove in the fifth grade when her father, Fred Marshall, drove her to Oak Harbor to purchase one.
“I’m not sure if he knew how many gloves he’d have to buy me in the future,” she said. “My dad taught me how to throw, and, just as importantly, he taught me how to work hard and be a good player.”
“My mom (Catherine Marshall) has always been my rock and helped me find balance between winning games and just enjoying time with teammates and friends,” she said.
That work ethic emphasized by her father, she said, is one of the keys to her success.
“I love softball and enjoy it, so working towards being better has always been a part of who I am,” Marshall said.
“I never had the money or time to do travel ball, but I’m always working towards improving my game, whether it be working out at the gym or learning how to be a better leader.”
“Also, I believe in myself and what I can do if I just keep working.”
Marshall said her coaches, particularly current South Whidbey head coach Brad Jaeger, were also instrumental in her growth as an individual and athlete.
“As a kid, he (Jaeger) drove me to and from countless softball games and always told me to be better as a person and a player,” Marshall said.
“He taught me to keep working and focus on myself, because until you can hit every pitch over the fence, field every grounder perfectly and catch every pop fly, there are still things to improve on,” she said.
“Above all, he truly introduced me to softball and did everything he could to ensure I was happy when I was playing.”
“Ari Marshall is the person you always want on your team regardless of the sport,” Jaeger said. “She began her freshman year as the starting catcher for a Division 1 pitcher.”
“Not an easy task for anyone, let alone a freshman,” Jaeger added.
“Her teammates elected her one of the team captains for the last two years, showing that she not only has a very rare talent, but she’s also an excellent communicator.
“Ari has always been a catcher starting back in Little League, but, she would probably be the best infielder or outfielder as well. Let’s not forget she’s also one of the school’s top students.,” Jaeger said. “Ari is truly a once in a generation player, but what has always impressed me the most, is the kind of person she is.”
Along with Jaeger, Marshall stressed the help she received from her many other coaches: Jeff Hanson, Alexandra Goheen, Ben Jacobson-Ross, Heather Collins, Christie Adragna, Bethany Flister, Steve West and Coach Settles.
Marshall said the highlight of her career was ripping a walk-off base hit to defeat Archbishop Murphy her freshman year.
It was the first time the Falcons beat the Wildcats “in a long time.”
Marshall, who owns a 3.91 grade point average, plans to head to the East Coast to attend college — Long Island University — and major in global studies.
“This is a unique college experience where I will be abroad (hopefully after COVID) for nearly all four years of college.”
“Since I really want to travel,” she added, “that would leave little time to stay committed to a team, so as of now I don’t have any plans to continue competitive softball and will most likely be retiring my cleats.”