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Young Is Old Hand at Pitching

Softball: Mater Dei freshman has dominated the opposition.


She was the buzz from the very beginning.

"Mater Dei got a freshman," they said.

"Have you heard about the freshman?"

Everyone seemed to know of Mater Dei's Marissa Young.

She was the talk of the softball community, and lived up to the hype.

She threw hard, she dominated opponents, she spoke well of herself and teammates.

She was everything everyone expected--and more. And she's The Times Orange County player of the year.

"Let's face it," Mater Dei Coach Doug Myers said at one point during the season, "Marissa Young is the future of this program."

At the very least. There are those who think she could be the future of softball in this country.

She pitched seven games two summers ago and her legend was taking root. Her team won all of them, winning the ASA 14-and-under national championship. She had 77 strikeouts in those seven games.

She pitched her team to the under-16 finals last summer, and she certainly did nothing to hurt her reputation while playing high school. She gave up only one earned run all season, and if she hadn't split time with Oregon State-bound pitcher Brooke Hofstetter, there's no telling what kind of numbers Young might have posted.

Still, the numbers she did were quite telling.

She had the county's lowest earned-run average (0.06) and its highest strikeout total, 216, despite pitching only 126 2/3 innings. That's 1.7 strikeouts every inning. She walked only 15, and didn't give up a hit the first 25 innings she pitched in the playoffs. In all, she threw 29 2/3 innings in the playoffs and gave up two hits--both in the same inning. Young was 18-1.

Not bad--for a 14-year-old!

Mater Dei finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in Orange County, but finished the playoffs with a Southern Section Division I title and the top ranking in Cal-Hi Sports' state poll.

The only earned run she gave up was in the last inning of a 7-2 victory in which San Clemente got back-to-back doubles.

Her private pitching coach, Tom Auger, stated two weeks ago, "Marissa Young will be on the 2000 Olympic team, unless something happens."

Auger has coached a pitcher (who's playing outfield) on this year's Olympic team, Leah O'Brien, so the guy must know something.

"[Young] has the talent right now to pitch. She's a very intelligent girl," Auger said.

Only time will tell if Auger is blowing smoke but most people don't think he is. Young gives every indication when she steps on the field she's capable of accomplishing the spectacular.

She struck out 34 of the first 39 batters she faced this season, and struck out 21 against Fountain Valley--a team renowned for its hitting.

She pitched a perfect game in the quarterfinals against the ninth-ranked team in Division I, Thousand Oaks.

Even if she's not pitching, she's hitting.

She is such a good hitter that Myers had to find a spot for her in the lineup. He put her at first base on days she didn't pitch. She batted .402 with three home runs and 35 runs batted in--the second-best total in the county. And she's not some slap hitter, either. She hits with power that rivals La Habra's Jenny Topping or Brea Olinda's Geney Orris. She batted cleanup for the Monarchs, who are ranked No. 1 in the state. As a freshman.

"She has great presence," Myers says. "She's the type of person who wants the ball with the game on the line, or wants to bat with the game on the line. The thing that really strikes you is her poise and composure. She radiates that."

Of course, Auger's words are cautionary, too. "If nothing happens."

Young wouldn't be the first star to flame out. But if she doesn't, she could be pitching in high school one year and in Sydney, Australia, the next.

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