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Sammy Marshall Is The Fastest Woman In Professional Softball

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(Photo courtesy of National Pro Fastpitch)

Sammy Marshall isn't worried about her batting average. That's because the Cleveland Comets' center fielder and five-year National Pro Fastpitch veteran has the wisdom to know that plenty of other metrics define how valuable she is to her team. Instead, Marshall chooses to focus on her ability to get on base, by any means necessary, which allows her to do her primary job—stealing bases—better than anyone else in professional softball.

"Batting average is typically the metric people look at, but I think one of the most important metrics is on-base percentage, which I care more about," Marshall told Softball America in a phone interview. "I always want to put myself a base hit away from scoring."

Regardless of her current .271 batting average, Marshall has tallied 14 stolen bases through 18 NPF contests so far in 2019, which is just one short of her league-leading 15 swipes in 45 games last season. Her mere presence on first base this year, regardless of how she gets there, is practically as good as if she had smoked a double off of the outfield wall.

"Honestly, last year I had way more extra-base hits, which limited the times I could steal second," said Marshall, who was an All-NPF selection last season. "I’ve hit a lot more singles this year, so I’ve had more opportunities to steal bases."

After four years with the Chicago Bandits, and a career campaign in 2018 that saw her score 30 runs and knock in another 26 to go along with her 15 stolen bases, Marshall was traded to the Comets in the offseason. Admittedly, she is still getting accustomed to the day-to-day operations of her new team.

"It has taken a little bit of adjusting," said the 25-year-old. "But being exposed to new and different game plans is always good, especially for someone like me who also coaches."

Marshall, who graduated from Western Illinois University in 2015, spent the last college softball season as the head coach at Judson University of the NAIA. Before that, she was a graduate assistant coach for two years at D-II Saint Leo University, from where she earned a master's degree in sports business administration this past spring. Her time spent as a business student, as well as a professional athlete and college coach, inspired her to create her own Chicago-based softball instructional company called Delta Performance, which she started last year with her former Bandits teammates, Shelby Turnier and Kristen Brown.

"We wanted to impact the game of softball outside of coaching it at the collegiate level. We can give lessons to 50 different girls in two weeks," said Marshall, a two-time Cowles Cup champion with the Bandits. "Our role is to be game-changers. We want to empower young women through softball and give them the tools to compete at a high level."

Even though Marshall has demonstrated throughout her five NPF seasons that she has all the tools to both compete and succeed at the highest level in softball, she knows that more time spent training and practicing in the offseason can help take her game, and her speed, to the next level. That's why she has chosen to step away from college coaching for at least the 2019–2020 season.

“Finding time to train this past year was difficult," said Marshall, who simultaneously coached college ball, gave lessons four nights a week for Delta Performance and took a full course load to finish her master's degree. “I’m hoping this next offseason will give me more time to train by not being a college coach. In 10 years, I can be a college coach, but I won’t always be able to be a professional softball player."

With that mindset, Marshall is firmly focused on finishing the 2019 NPF season strong and helping her Comets, who currently sit in fourth place in the league's standings, win softball games.

"I'm just going to keep doing everything I can to get on first base so that I can help my team by eventually putting myself in scoring position," Marshall said. "I think baserunning wins games."

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NPF Announces New Schedule Format For 2020 Season

The 2020 National Pro Fastpitch season will feature a new schedule format, which was announced Tuesday.