High School Sports

Marissa Piatt thriving under pressure for first-place SLO High softball

SLO High softball hosts Mission Prep in a PAC 8 game. Marissa Piatt gets congratulations for conventional home run.
SLO High softball hosts Mission Prep in a PAC 8 game. Marissa Piatt gets congratulations for conventional home run. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Marissa Piatt has a strong connection to Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, the ex-con and out-of-control pitcher portrayed by Charlie Sheen in the movie classic “Major League.”

Piatt never spent time playing in the California Penal League like Vaughn did, but the San Luis Obispo High School senior does wear the same number as Vaughn, 99, a product of a limited number choices when she was a freshman. And the walk-up music that blares from the dugout speakers as she approaches the plate — “Wild Thing” by The Troggs — is the same as Vaughn’s entrance music.

But Piatt has been anything but wild on the field this season for the first-place Tigers. In fact, when the stakes are highest, Piatt has been able to stay calm and elevate her game.

“She has been our clutch player in every game,” SLO High head coach Sheila McGuire said. “Every close game, it has been her.”

The numbers back it up. In five games this season against the top teams in the PAC 8 — Arroyo Grande, Atascadero and Paso Robles — Piatt has a .615 batting average with 10 RBI and a home run. The Tigers are 4-1 in those games.

Piatt’s dominance, along with the emergence of freshman pitcher Xiao Gin, senior slugger Lorin Tapp and captain Natalie Ziegler, has Tigers in first place for the first time since local legend and eventual National Champion Katie Burkhart led the Tigers to their first league title in 2004. After back-to-back 10-0 run-rule wins this week, SLO High (18-6, 10-2 PAC 8) sits alone in first and has the chance to end the long title drought with two regular season games remaining.

“There is a huge sense of pride helping the team out and getting them to this top spot when we haven’t been here in a while,” Piatt said.

Her season stat line is equally ridiculous. Through 23 games, Piatt has a .587 batting average, 36 RBI and five home runs. In the field — though Piatt is a natural catcher with her club team — she has been playing mostly shortstop for the Tigers and has committed just four errors this season. McGuire, who earned a softball scholarship to Pacific, is sure Piatt has what it takes to make it at the next level.

“With her talent and abilities — she is also academic — she will have no problem getting a DI scholarship. I am talking to multiple schools,” McGuire said, adding that Piatt probably won’t make a decision on her next step until after the season.

On Thursday against Mission Prep, Piatt hit two home runs — first using speed to leg out one of the inside-the-park variety and then using power to drive a pitch over the center-field fence.

“She is also able to hit with power to the opposite field on outside pitches. Not a lot of girls have that power,” McGuire said.

This season was supposed to be a down year for the Tigers. With McGuire in her first year as head coach and just two returning seniors on a team that finished in fourth place in the league last season, Piatt didn’t have high expectations.

“Honestly, I thought we were going to struggle at the beginning of the season,” Piatt said. “But we have come through really well and powered through trying to get to the top, and now we are here. It’s amazing.”

Standing in the way is Arroyo Grande (17-6, 9-3 PAC 8), a team with plenty of league titles to its name and the favorites to win the PAC 8 entering the season. Piatt will again have to come up clutch against the second-place Eagles when the teams meet in Arroyo Grande at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday

“We are thinking about that first-inning first pitch,” Piatt said of the matchup against the Eagles. “We are going to drill the ball, hopefully. We just have to start out well like we have been, and hopefully it will carry through the game.”