In anything that one does in life, it’s always important to be passionate and energetic.
And over the course of her four-year experience at Valley High School, Marissa Markins certainly qualifies in that category.
The two-sport standout, who has obtained All-SOC and All-District honors in softball during each of the past two seasons, used her clever fielding abilities and her top-notch batting to obtain an opportunity to play for the Shawnee State University softball program on Friday evening in a signing ceremony that was held inside the VHS halls in Lucasville.
For Markins, the opportunity to play for an emerging softball program at Shawnee State — which improved dramatically from an 11-35 campaign in 2016 to a 24-24 mark in Steve Whittaker’s second season with the program in 2017 — is a great honor that the rising senior plans to take full advantage of.
“I’m just very excited,” Markins said. “I hope to get to meet everybody there and establish relationships that will last long after I finish playing softball. I just want to make my teammates happy and put together really good seasons in the years ahead.”
However, Valley head coach Monte Spriggs and Shawnee State University assistant coach Daulton Kenyon know that the opportunity is a well-deserved one considering the amount of work that Markins has put in as a player inside the program.
“Marissa’s going to bring a lot of energy, a lot of commitment, and a lot of drive because she’s a hard worker,” Spriggs said. “It’s going to help their program. She’s going to be an extremely good player down there.”
“She should definitely fit right in and be a good fit for our program,” Kenyon said. “She seems like a really nice person, and she stood out during the camps. I’m definitely excited to see what she can bring to the table.”
Over the course of her high school career, Markins has developed from a promising role piece with potential into arguably the Lady Indians’ most complete hitter and fielder. A first baseman who has made outstanding stretches at the position with her stride, Markins has obtained All-SOC and All-District honors as a sophomore and as a junior due to these traits. The senior also obtained All-SOC honors to end her volleyball career earlier in the fall.
“Hitting-wise, I just focus on the ball and know that it’s all for the team,” Markins said. “The main object is to just try to get that ball in play and to help by plating runs across. I just want to make my team proud, and I just try my very best and work really hard.”
However, those accomplishments, Markins says, are all in part to the people that have surrounded her over the years.
“My freshman year, I was so scared to go in the first game (that I played in) because I was afraid that I was going to mess up and make everybody upset,” Markins said. “But over the years, I’ve really thought about it, and it’s been like, ‘Man, this is my time to show that I’m able to play this game.’ It’s just been a great blessing to have such great teammates and coaches. They have really helped with their support, and I know that I wouldn’t be in this position without them helping me so much. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.”
Ultimately, however, it’s been up to Markins to make the necessary improvements in her game — and make no mistake about it, the work that the senior has put in hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially considering that Spriggs called her “the ideal first basemen” at the signing.
“Marissa works very hard,” Spriggs said. “She never missed a workout or a weightlifting session. She’s tall and thin, but make no mistake about it, she’s very strong. She works hard. I kept telling her, ‘If you think it’s hard now, wait until you get down to (Shawnee State), because it’s going to get harder.’ They will be on her all the time. However, the harder you push her, the better off she is.”
“She’s been to a few camps of ours, and she really stood out,” Kenyon said. “I mentioned her to Steve (Whittaker), and he already informed me that she was coming here. I said, ‘That’s good.’ She’s tall and she’s athletic. I was told that she had a really strong arm, and she showed it off at the camps whenever we’ve had them. She really stood out. She hits the ball well, too, so that’s definitely a plus.”
Markins’ passion for the game — and her school — however, sets her apart as much as anything else.
“It’s been an amazing experience to be known as an Indian,” Markins said. “Valley’s always been known for its academics and athletics, and it’s been known for that while keeping a family-like atmosphere. We’re a small school, so everybody’s really close and tight-knit.”
At Shawnee State, Markins will not only join a program that made a 13-win improvement from 2016 to 2017 — including a jump from a 4-20 Mid-South Conference mark in 2016 to a 12-12 showing in 2017 — but one that looks like it isn’t settling for just .500 ball. Whittaker and his coaching staff have already added Louisiana State University transfer Michal Cunningham — an All-State standout at Wheelersburg — into the fold, which already includes former Valley standout and Bowling Green transfer Kayla Koch. Koch hit .336 last season for the Bears and emerged as a serious power threat for Shawnee State in collecting seven home runs and 12 doubles on the year.
With Koch back on the roster to lead the unit as a senior, and Whittaker — who made the transition to collegiate athletics after overseeing a wildly successful Buckeye Elite program that won 350 games to just 85 losses, which was an average of 35 wins to eight losses a season, over his tenure in coaching the Buckeye Elite ‘97 and Buckeye Elite ‘03 programs — proving himself as a clear developer of talent, it’s clear that the SSU softball program is on the rise.
“It was just small and local; only around 15 minutes away,” Markins said. “Then, in the softball program itself, you’re able to get to know each and every one of them very well. I’m sure that everybody will love each other once we all get there. It’s good to know that I’m going to be meeting new people that will soon be my family.”
With her college decision out of the way, Markins, however, wants to focus on one thing — delivering success for her fellow teammates and the coaching staff at Valley.
“It’s been a tremendous blessing,” Markins said of playing with her teammates and for her coaches. “It’s taught me a lot about how I want to be when I get older. It’s taught me how we should communicate as a team, and that we need to work together in order to obtain big accomplishments.”
But regardless of what happens in 2018, Spriggs says that the sky is clearly the limit for Markins if she continues to work like she has.
“Watching here as a freshman to now has been tremendous,” Spriggs said. “She’s grown into a tremendous young lady, both mentally and physically. It’s been exhilarating to me to see what she has turned out to be. She’ll be sorely missed when she leaves this program.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT