Friday, Nov 21, 2014
Nature Coast

Injuries cause Marshall's plan to go awry


Published:

No prep student/athletes are aware at what the future may hold.

Just ask ex-Nature Coast Technical two-sport standout Jennifer "Jen" Lee Marshall.

In November 2009, when the 5-foot-8 hoopster and catcher signed a national letter of intent to play collegiate softball with the Division I Presbyterian College Blue Hose in Clinton, S.C., who would have known Marshall's plan would go awry?

Marshall, a three-time All-County hoopster and receiver, arrived with a glowing 3.7 grade point average, a love for graphic design and that rare ability to lead her teammates on the hardwood court and diamond.

Jen, middle of three children of Spring Hill's Joe and Laurie Marshall, was born in Winchester, Mass., only 20 minutes outside of Boston.

Academically, Marshall maintained her diligence in the classroom. She currently carries a 3.0 GPA and will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in art history and a minor in athletic coaching.

But athletically, the bulletproof persona she carried in her Hernando County endeavors has worn out.

In Marshall's own words playing for the Blue Hose has been a struggle.

During her freshman year, where she started 44 of her 47 games behind the plate, she was completing a throwdown when she "felt a twinge in her back and fell straight down."

She was diagnosed with two bulging degenerative discs (L-4 and L-5) in her back.

"I was suffering shooting pains throughout my back and then I had these tingling sensations," described the now 22-year-old Marshall. "I did a bunch of rehab and slowly came back. I was allowed to keep playing on the team, but I couldn't even sit in the library for long periods of time."

It was an awkward time for Marshall, who was used to being looked to for guidance.

"Here I was a freshman, who came in and beat out two other girls for the starting catching position and was playing well," said Marshall. "Then I had to deal with what I had to deal with."

She gutted out the situation with the help of her teammates.

"We are one big family," explained Marshall. "Without my teammates' support, I couldn't have made it back."

As a sophomore she returned to the field for 37 games, including 31 starts - all behind the dish. But she wasn't allowed to swing the bat.

Marshall, who carried a stout .397 batting average in 100 career games at NCT, went a humbling 0-for-4 at the plate.

As a freshman receiver, she handled 172-of-174 chances (a team-leading .989 fielding percentage), featuring 24 assists.

As a sophomore, she nearly matched the 2011 season stats successfully handling 129-of-131 (.985) chances, featuring 16 assists.

"I was mostly the flex player as a sophomore," described Marshall. "At least I could help the team in what I do best - play defense. I wouldn't say it was a struggle. With the adrenaline going, I was good back there."

In 2013, the back "felt a lot better" as she was rehabbing up to three times a week, shared Marshall.

She pointed out that to get stronger she could lift weights, but was not allowed to do any squats.

As a junior, she was doing a lot more swimming and spending more time stretching her back out.

In 39 games (33 starts), Marshall collected a personal-best 19 hits in a personal-high 85 at-bats. She finished with a .224 batting average and 12 runs batted in.

Oddly enough, though she was able to get back in the box to hit, her defense slipped. She committed an uncharacteristic seven errors in 158 chances (.956 fielding percentage).

Marshall entered her senior year healthier than she's been in 2 seasons. Just two games into the 2014 campaign, Marshall attempted to flee from a high rise ball, but couldn't.

The pitch snapped her left ulna bone in her elbow, causing a hairline fracture. She's currently wearing a hard cast. She prays that she'll be able to return to the Blue Hose before Big South Conference play begins.

The broken arm has played tricks with Marshall's fragile mental state. Marshall has consulted over and over with another member of the team regarding her faith.

"We talk all the time and she's explained that things happen for a reason," acknowledged Marshall. "I may not know what that reason is, but there's a reason why God is challenging me."

"I'm better now (mentally) than I was in January," said Marshall. "Back then I was freaking out because it's my senior year. All I want to do is get back. I'm the team's only senior."

Due to this latest injury, "I've taken more of a supportive role," pointed out Marshall. "Right now, I'm more of a vocal leader."

Marshall's postseason plans don't include playing addition softball. She was invited to play on the U.S. Travel Ball team overseas, but declined.

After this season, she plans on earning her master's degree in graphic design and sports administration.

"My playing days may be limited," noted Marshall, who is hitting a career-low .235 at Presbyterian. "But I'm preparing for life as a coach. I'd love to be a coach someday."

With all the obstacles thrown in her path, Marshall is not bitter at her decision to attend Presbyterian.

"I came from a small town (Spring Hill), but Clinton is like Mayberry," said Marshall. "You can still hear the trains running through town every day. Spring Hill is like Tampa compared to Clinton.

"It wasn't much of an adjustment for me," she added. "It's not like I really needed to go out or go clubbing in Clinton. There wasn't much to do or really anything to distract me from my studies."

According to Marshall, one of the biggest positives is Presbyterian's faculty and staff.

"There are only 1,600 kids here. All my professors know my first name. The entire faculty and staff really have our backs here," she said. "I don't think I ever would have fit in a bigger school. I've made some life-long friends here."

Over the next seven weeks, Marshall hopes to "get back out on the field and play the game I love, get my degree and start focusing on my post-graduate education."

"I miss my baby sis (Abby, a freshman on the NCT softball team) back home," she added. "Right now, I'm headed in a good place. I feel I'm on the up staircase."

By the numbers: Jen Marshall at Nature Coast (2007-10)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO

YEARS GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI .AVG

2007 25 86 13 31 1 0 0 14 .360

2008 25 74 21 26 3 0 0 12 .351

2009 27 91 20 44 3 1 1 20 .484

2010 23 79 18 30 6 2 0 21 .380

TOTALS 100 330 72 131 13 3 1 67 .397

By the numbers: Jen Marshall at Presbyterian (2011-14)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO

YEARS GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI .AVG

2011 47 61 04 16 2 0 0 08 .262

2012 37 04 01 00 0 0 0 00 .000

2013 39 85 08 19 5 1 0 12 .224

2014 02 00 01 00 0 0 0 00 .000

TOTALS 125 150 14 35 7 1 0 20 .235

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