Bandits leadoff hitter Sammy Marshall, 23, is in her third National Pro Fastpitch season, but she can be considered a veteran.
A member of the two previous Bandits teams that won the Cowles Cup, Marshall now finds herself on a roster with 15 new faces. And the lessons Marshall learned last season, when the Bandits scuffled through much of the summer only to rebound for the NPF title, has provided her with the confidence to believe that the Bandits might have what it takes to win their third consecutive championship.
Much like last year, the Bandits (12-13) haven’t found their stride. But if Marshall has learned anything, it’s that things can fall into place at just the right time.
And if Marshall ever has doubts, she can fall back on the counsel of third baseman Stacy May Johnson, who constantly says, “You don’t need to be good in June. You just have to be good in August.”
“It seems obvious,” Marshall said. “You never really think about it that way because you think -every game is super important — which it is — but when push comes to shove, as long as we’re playing our best ball come middle of -August, that’s when we want to play our best.”
Last season, the Bandits wound up as the No. 3 seed entering the postseason but shocked the regular-season champion USSSA Pride to win the Cowles Cup despite finishing with a .500 record.
Ownership issues put this season in doubt before the Village of Rosemont took over the team in January. With change came some uncertainty, and through the first 25 games of the season, the Bandits have needed time to come together after returning only nine players.
Still, Marshall sees plenty of potential. And if the Bandits do win another title, Marshall will be a major reason why.
While the new talent has needed time, Marshall has taken on a starring role. Entering Wednesday, she led the league with 32 hits and 17 runs. Her .390 batting average ranked fourth.
Although hitting leadoff is nothing new for Marshall — she did it in college at Western Illinois — having so much inexperience on the roster has made the Naperville native’s presence even more pivotal.
“I take pride in getting the team going and being that spark plug that hopefully generates a lot of momentum,” Marshall said. “If we can get that on our side, that can be a huge factor of who wins the game.
“For me, I just like to get on, I like to get moved over and I like to score runs early. So if I can get on base and do all those things for the team, I think we’re sitting pretty for the rest of the game.”
Follow me on Twitter @JeffArnold_.