Shaina Marvel has to think about the question.
If she had to choose, would she rather have a 4.0 grade-point average or post a .400 batting average for the University High softball team?
“Since my parents are going to read this, I’ll have to say that I’d rather have the 4.0 grade point average,” the senior said in all candor. After a beat, she adds, laughing: “But I have to say that I would love, love to hit .400.”
The truth is, the Titan outfielder will never have to choose – and in fact, she can come close to posting both marks.
The senior’s 4.0 g.p.a. took a dent a year ago, leaving her at 3.9 as her high school career winds down.
“Those advanced placement classes are tougher than I thought they’d be,” she said.
Tough as those classes were, Marvel has been just as tough swinging the bat. She’s hit safely in all five games thus far this season. She singled, tripled and drove in three runs in the season opener with Rogers and drove in five runs with a two-run double and three-run homer as the Titans snapped Shadle Park’s 77-game Greater Spokane League win streak.
“Those wins definitely gave us a boost,” she said. “We lost a big group of seniors after last year, and it helps to get some wins under your belt when you’re still trying to find yourself as a team.”
The Titans graduated six seniors from last year’s team – including a four-year starter and a handful of three-year starters and four-year varsity players.
“It’s hard to replace those kinds of players,” Marvel said. “We’re trying to learn from what they did while they were here and keep the tradition going.
“There’s no question that there’s pressure to be successful when you’re playing for U-Hi.”
Marvel and her teammates try to keep things loose in the dugout and help teammates keep the game in perspective.
“This is a tough game,” she said. “You can fail eight times out of 10 and you’ll still be just fine. Fail seven out of 10 times and you’re probably an all-star.
“You need to feel confident when you go up to the plate. But at the same time, you can’t afford to feel too cocky, either.”
Marvel shoulders some of that leadership responsibility. She’s worked hard on her game through four seasons at U-Hi and that sweat equity has paid off as a senior. In the fall slowpitch season she was a first-team All-GSL outfielder.
“The thing about Coach (Jon) Schuh that really helps is that he coaches both fastpitch and slowpitch,” she said. “He makes sure you use the same swing, no matter what speed the pitcher throws. We try to just think of it like hitting a change-up.
“And defensively, you really get the chance to work on your mechanics because the ball is in play so much more in slowpitch.”
A 4-1 start has helped get the Titans out of the gate in fine shape – highlighted by that win over a Shadle Park squad that hadn’t lost a league game in more than three seasons.
“That was a big win for us and it was a satisfying game for me, too,” Marvel said. “Shadle was so dominating while (University of Oregon pitcher) Sam Skillingstad was there. She was just an overpowering pitcher. We always knew we could hit. We always knew we could field. But she could just shut you down.”
It’s an impressive start, too, when you consider the simple fact that the weather has not cooperated. As of Thursday, the Titans had yet to have an outdoor practice during spring break week.
“It would be nice if it just warmed enough so that the field could thaw and drain,” Marvel said. “Until it does it gets muddy and wet, especially in right field.”
Playing games in these frigid conditions is a challenge, as well.
“You have to do what you can to keep warm and loose when it’s cold,” she said. “You have to spend a lot of time stretching and then stretching some more. This is supposed to be a warm-weather game, right?”
Beyond that, she said, it’s tough to get into a hitting groove when you’re taking most of your batting practice indoors.
“You really need to get used to hitting outside,” she said. “Coach Schuh does his best to get us ready. We hit off live pitching in the cage, but you don’t have the same kind of hitting background to work against so you’re not always picking up the ball the way you do outside.”
Marvel admits to having a love affair with her time in the batting cage, taking swing after swing until it feels automatic.
How she fits such sessions into her study schedule is another challenge.
“Well, I sleep less,” she laughs. “Actually, I’ve learned some very good study habits and that really helps, especially now.”
While she doesn’t plan to play college softball, Marvel doesn’t plan to hang up her cleats any time soon.
“I just can’t see myself not playing, you know what I mean?” she said. “I think I’d go crazy if I didn’t. It’s just something I love doing and don’t plan to give up.”
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