Marissa Miller doesn’t have time for lengthy explanations. She has skills to hone and a state title to chase.
When it comes down to why she loves her lofty position in the middle of the pitcher’s circle, the Puyallup High School senior’s response is as rapid-fire as the balls she hurls at opponents.
“I like to be in control.”
And in doing just that, Miller, The News Tribune’s All-Area player of the year, has helped turn Puyallup into a powerful force as it enters the Class 4A state fastpitch tournament looking for its first championship. The Vikings open against crosstown rival Emerald Ridge at noon Friday at the Merkel Sports Complex in Spokane.
“I just like how into the game you have to be,” she said. “You can’t take any pitches off because you control everything.”
Puyallup coach Tony Batinovich said Miller has arguably had the best senior season in his 22 years with the program. An all-4A South Puget Sound League South Division first-teamer in 2013, the three-year starter has amassed a 22-1 record and an ERA of just over 1.00 this year.
“The person in the circle is so important, and she has held down that position so well for us,” he said. “And mentally, she has
gotten so much tougher.”
Her first season at Puyallup, Miller played pitcher-in-waiting to senior Kelsey Robinson, a four-time first team all-district and All-Area selection who is now pitching at Pacific Lutheran University. Next year, the pair will be reunited as Miller suits up for the Lutes.
“Pitching under a senior who was going to play in college, I learned so much,” Miller said. “How (Robinson) would approach games and how much work she put in gave me a good idea of how to prepare for the future.”
In addition to studying under Robinson, Miller played outfield as a freshman. She wasn’t a fan.
“Going from right field to pitching is like super boring to awesome,” she said. “I like fast-paced. I don’t like to sit around and wait.”
Miller said she had no idea about high school fastpitch when she started: the competitiveness, the extra work it takes to stand out.
“I had no idea they pitched four days a week and I’d pitch one,” she said. “Being next to Kelsey every day, going through the same routines, was eye-opening.”
Three years later, her poise and experience led the Vikings to their first West Central District title on Saturday.
She was especially determined after a heartbreaking finish in 2013, when Puyallup was eliminated on a controversial call in a loser-out game against Olympia.
“We were devastated,” Miller said. “We knew we could get there, and then we didn’t.”
So when this season rolled around, the seniors made a plan.
“(The freshmen) didn’t know what it felt like,” Miller said. “But we pulled down and expected them to play at a high level to get to state, and they have done everything we asked.”
Batinovich said Miller’s approach has benefitted Puyallup’s young players.
“She gives constructive criticism in a very positive way,” he said. “She’s not negative or berating; she says, ‘We need to do this,’ and they follow her.”
Miller is fairly nonchalant about her role, though.
“If you mess up, you just have to roll with it,” she said. “People are looking up to you all the time, so you have to be encouraging.”
Senior first baseman Taylor Jellison said Miller has been key in cultivating the Vikings’ fighting mentality.
“I have played with Marissa for four years, and I think the biggest thing for her is the improvement in her work ethic and what she has done to get us where we are.
“She’s a really big part of our team — a really good athlete and a really good leader.”
In addition to starring on the mound for Puyallup and the Northwest Wildcats tournament team, Miller is a longtime basketball player who only quit this winter in order to focus on fastpitch full time.
“I miss basketball a lot, but I love softball, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said.
Miller, who has a 3.9 grade-point average, plans to study business at PLU.
But first there’s the matter of helping Puyallup win its first state title.
“It’s going to be fun to leave high school going to state,” she said. “I’m going out with a bang.”
THE NEWS TRIBUNE’S 2014 ALL-AREA FASTPITCH TEAM
Corner infielder: Madison Rogers, Beamer, jr. Dual threat (1B/SP), she came up with big hits (two home runs, eight doubles, 14 RBIs) and pitches (13-3, 1.73 ERA).
Corner infielder: Grace Utto-Galarneau, Timberline, jr. Third baseman mashed everything in sight (six HR, 53 RBI, .908 slugging percentage) for 3A Narrows champion.
Corner infielder: Chloe Young, Enumclaw, jr. Three-time all-3A SPSL third baseman (.521 batting average, HR, 25 RBI) mans the hot corner like a professional.
Middle infielder: Delene Colburn, Auburn Mountainview, sr.3A SPSL MVP at shortstop was toughest out in league (.562 BA; .600 with runners in scoring position); signed with Montana.
Middle infielder: Mia Corbin, Tahoma, so. Best leadoff hitter in area (.558 BA, 17 stolen bases) is two-time 4A SPSL North MVP at shortstop; Cal commit for soccer.
Middle infielder: Dominique Greeno, North Thurston, jr. No area slugger hit more home runs (13) than 3A Narrows MVP; shortstop is Northern Illinois commit.
Middle infielder: Megan Jewett-Chan, Beamer, jr. Cerebral 4A SPSL South MVP has silky smooth style in the batter’s box (.453 BA, four triples) and at shortstop.
Outfielder: Ally Choate, Yelm, fr. The future is now. This ninth grader was a buzz saw in the outfield (.625 BA) en route to 4A Narrows MVP honors.
Outfielder: Chelsey Hayes, Emerald Ridge, sr. What she sees, she runs down in center field; all-4A SPSL performer hit well (.487 BA, eight doubles), too.
Outfielder: Breanna Richardson, Fife, sr.Imposing all-2A SPSL right fielder drives in runs (.467 BA, 35 RBIs); also an all-league basketball player.
Designated hitter: Brittany Genuardi, Bethel, so. Tore up 4A SPSL South pitching (.558 BA, six HRs, 27 RBIs, 20 runs), Braves catcher also hit for the cycle.
Catcher: Rylee Whispel, Rogers, sr. Her swing generates such easy power, this Miami of Ohio signee led 4A SPSL in batting average (.644).
Catcher: Jessica Woodruff, Curtis sr. Arguably best all-round backstop in area — she hit .481 with five HRs, 20 runs, 12 SB – and made no errors.
Starting pitcher: Quinn Breidenbach, Enumclaw, so. Slight frame, big-time arm – she was the 3A SPSL pitching MVP (16-0, 170 strikeouts in 87.0 innings pitched).
Starting pitcher: Melissa Charron, Bonney Lake, sr. Pitching with heart of a lioness (1.21 ERA, 155 strikeouts), she has carried Panthers to fifth consecutive 3A state trip.
Starting pitcher: Jasmin Fulmore, Mount Rainier, sr. Hard thrower was 4A SPSL’s regular-season strikeout leader (171 Ks in 93 IP; 1.51 ERA); also hit .477.
Starting pitcher: Ali Graham, W.F. West, jr. Co-ace pitcher for the defending 2A champions (11-0, 1.10 ERA) also clutch hitter (.573 BA, 42 RBIs).
Starting pitcher: Maddy Stensby, Olympia, jr. Left-hander has two legitimate “out” pitches (curveball, change-up); 4A Narrows pitching MVP.
Player of the year: Marissa Miller, pitcher, Puyallup, sr.
Coach of the year: Tony Batinovich, Puyallup
Corner infielder: Alaina Morgan, Peninsula, sr.
Corner infielder: Kaelyn Voss, Eatonville, sr.
Middle infielder: Alycia Bannan, Orting, fr.
Middle infielder: Angela Leingang, Fife, sr.
Middle infielder: Alyssa McKiernan, Bellarmine Prep, so.
Middle infielder: Sarah Morrow, Enumclaw, sr.
Outfielder: Emily Ensrud, Puyallup, so.
Outfielder: Analee Scott, Beamer, jr.
Designated hitter: Morgan Engelhardt, Tahoma, sr.
Catcher: Becky Forza, Enumclaw, sr.
Starting pitcher: Lizzet Dominguez, Kentridge, sr.
Starting pitcher: Anna Kasner, Fife, so.
Starting pitcher: Sydney Prigge, Gig Harbor, sr.
Starting pitcher: Rylee Thomas, Bethel, jr.
STATE FASTPITCH CHAMPIONSHIPS
Class 4A tournament at Merkel Sports Complex, Spokane
Defending champions: 4A – Arlington.
Game 1: Newport vs. Bethel, 10 a.m., Field 1
Game 2: Battle Ground vs. Moses Lake, 10 a.m., F2
Game 3: Lake Stevens vs. Walla Walla, 10 a.m., F4 Game 4: Tahoma vs. Redmond, 10 a.m., F5
Game 5: Woodinville vs. Camas, noon, F1
Game 6: Todd Beamer vs. Richland, noon, F2
Game 7: Wenatchee vs. Snohomish, noon, F4
Game 8: Emerald Ridge vs. Puyallup, noon, F5
Rest of schedule: Friday – Quarterfinals start at 4 p.m. Saturday – Semifinals are at 9 a.m., with the title game at 5 p.m.
The skinny: At quick glance, there’s no clear-cut favorite among the 4A ranks, but Snohomish enters Spokane with the field’s top mark of 22-1. Its only loss? To Lake Stevens on May 9. The Panthers have never won a state title in fastpitch. Two newbies in the bunch — Battle Ground and Bethel — could meet in the state quarterfinals should they both win their first-round games. Both squads are making their state tournament debuts. Two Puyallup teams — Puyallup and Emerald Ridge — square off in the first round; the teams split their regular-season meeting in the SPSL South Division.
Class 3A tournament at Regional Athletic Complex, Lacey
Defending champions: 3A – Kamiakin.
Game 1: Ferndale vs. Bainbridge, 9 a.m., Field 1
Game 2: Liberty vs. Kamiakin, 9 a.m., F2
Game 3: Shadle Park vs. Mountain View, 9 a.m., F3
Game 4: Bonney Lake vs. Mount Si, 9 a.m., F4
Game 5: Columbia River vs. Juanita, noon, F1
Game 6: Prairie vs. Glacier Peak, noon, F2
Game 7: Meadowdale vs. University, noon, F3
Game 8: Holy Names vs. Enumclaw, noon, F4
Rest of schedule: Friday – Quarterfinals start at 4 p.m. Saturday – Semifinals are at 9 a.m., with the title game set for 3:30 p.m.
The skinny: She might only be a sophomore, but Enumclaw’s Quinn Breidenbach already is one of the state’s premier players, trying to lead the Hornets to their first state fastpitch title. At 24-0, Enumclaw (ranked No. 20 in the nation in the MaxPreps) is the only team in the 16-team field with an undefeated record and Breidenbach is a big reason why: 0.33 ERA with a .550 batting average. But on the other side of the bracket is two-time defending state champion Kamiakin of Kennewick, and the Braves’ only loss to a Washington team is 4A state-bound Richland. University of Spokane, is making its 10th state appearance since 2000, while Ferndale, near Bellingham, is in state for the first time.
Class 2A tournament at Carlon Park, Selah
Defending champions: 2A – Selah.
Game 1: Othello vs. Sultan, 10 a.m., Field 1
Game 2: Tumwater vs. Fife, 10 a.m., F2
Game 3: Anacortes vs. Colville, 10 a.m., F3
Game 4: White River vs. W.F. West, 10 a.m., F4
Game 5: Deer Park vs. Orting, noon, F1
Game 6: Port Angeles vs. Lake Washington, noon, F2
Game 7: Capital vs. Sequim, noon, F3
Game 8: Lynden vs. Ellensburg, noon, F4
Rest of schedule: Friday – Quarterfinals start at 4 p.m. Saturday – Semifinals are at 10 a.m., with the title game at 2 p.m.
The skinny: How good is W.F. West (22-0)? The Bearcats have shutout their opponents in 17 games while just giving up 31 runs in 22 games. They do it all — hitting, pitching and defense. Jessica McKay leads the offense with a .593 batting average, and right behind is Ali Graham (.573) and Caitlin Reynolds (.530). Graham and Mattie Boucher, each had 11-0 record in the circle. If all shapes up well, it could be an all-2A EvCo semifinal between the Bearcats and Tumwater, led by Kaylene Glasgo (.549 average, no errors in center field) and Jocelyn Glasgo’s 1.94 ERA in the circle. On the other side of the bracket is Lake Washington, which competes in the 3A/2A KingCo. The Kangaroos won the Northwest district tournament.
Tickets: Daily passes are $9 for adults, $7 for students/senior citizens. Tournaments passes are $15/$10.