North Central softball coach Herm Marshall wouldn’t be out of line if he were caught talking about a state championship appearance, considering the infusion of pitching he’s received.
This year, Marshall has Shanelle Test, a left-handed freshman who many Greater Spokane League coaches say has the ability to be the league’s next dominant pitcher.
Also in NC’s rotation is senior Denise Devereaux and sophomore transfer Janessa Karstens.
Ironically, just as quickly as these three have come together, Karstens could be the only one of the three returning next year.
NC may be a victim of the urban vs. suburban battle. Usually it’s a battle the suburbs win when it comes to human resources.
Next year, NC could lose Test to Mead.
Test’s family recently moved into the Mead district. There’s a chance she could join a Panthers program that has won or shared five of the last six titles. NC has one league title in 19 years.
“My mother wants me to go to school at Mead because everybody thinks it’s a better school,” Test said. “I don’t want to go there. I like it here. I hope I can still play here. This is a really cool school, and I think I’m getting a good education.”
Marshall has yet to talk with Test’s parents about having Shanelle finish her education at NC.
But the sentiment that exists in Spokane about the inner-city schools not being able to provide the same kind of education that Mead or the Valley schools provide, is something Marshall hears all the time.
“The hardest thing to do is convince the parents themselves that their kids can get a good education here,” Marshall said.
“It (NC) has a bad reputation in a lot of ways because its located close to downtown,” Marshall said. “Once we get the kids there, they enjoy it. It’s a good school.
“In many ways University, Central Valley, Gonzaga Prep and Mead have been able to dominate because of the economic situation they’re in.
“I’ve got about four players on this team who have to work and sometimes can’t devote as much time to the game.”
Time will tell where Test will end up. But for now, what Marshall has is quite special: a team just 1-1/2 games out of first place.
Mentioning the Indians with league contenders in recent years was out of the question.
Marshall said NC emerged from the GSL’s depths when Devereaux began pitching full time as a sophomore.
As a junior, Devereaux helped lead the Indians to the regional playoffs for the first time in six years.
Devereaux has lettered in four years of softball, and last year she pitched her way to GSL second-team honors. She’s been able to accomplish all this with the use of one eye.
When Devereaux was 20 months old, doctors discovered cancer in her left eye. She lost the vision in that eye when the cancer was removed.
She said playing sports with just one eye is “no big deal.” One of the GSL’s top batters, a right-hander, Devereaux had to learn to bat from the left side.
“When I first started playing, my coaches just thought I couldn’t hit,” Devereaux said. “My mom saw me at a practice one day and saw that I couldn’t see the ball. They turned me around so I just learned to be a lefty.”
Devereaux will graduate and Test may move. That would leave NC with just Karstens next year.
Unlike Test’s family, Karstens, who lives with her grandparents, moved from Riverside to the NC area.
“I grew up around softball and ended up being a weekend softball junkie because of grandpa,” Karstens said.
Her grandfather is NC pitching coach Ken Van Buskirk.
So with such a talented pitching rotation, Marshall has tried to make sure that the rest of the team keeps its focus as clear as the pitchers.
“I think they have the idea that the team comes first,” Marshall said. “I think the girls feel together.”
That’s important, because next year they might not be.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo