It took a heart-crushing moment to change the path of Marissa Piatt’s senior season.
It happened in December. Piatt, who was somehow flying under the radar of colleges despite a .551 batting average her junior season with the San Luis Obispo High School softball team, finally started to attract the attention of scouts. After the prospects of joining the softball teams at Sonoma State and Monterey Bay fell through, she went on a visit to Lewis and Clark College in Oregon in late 2016.
“It felt like a perfect fit, but it didn’t work out academic-wise because they are a private school,” Piatt said.
The news hurt, but as the calender turned to 2017 and her season season began, a funny thing happened — the stress of chasing a college scholarship faded away, and her game flourished.
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“I kind of shut down from colleges; like, ‘OK, I will go to Cuesta. I will just take two years there and transfer to wherever else I want to go,’” Piatt said. “I think that relaxed me more, and I think that’s what helped out this season. There was no pressure. I don’t have to prove myself to colleges.”
That lack of outside influence helped Piatt thrive under intense game pressure, and she helped lead SLO High to a historic season. It resulted in the best year of her career — six home runs and a .560 batting average — on the way to helping the Tigers capture their first softball league title in 13 years. She did it all playing shortstop, even though her natural position is catcher, and committed just four errors all season. For her accomplishments, she has been named The Tribune 2017 County Softball Player of the Year.
‘I was crying’
All season, Piatt and the Tigers played kingslayers, taking out traditional PAC 8 powerhouses Atascadero, Paso Robles and Righetti one-by-one.
No game stands out more to Piatt than a late-March road matchup with Righetti, a team that had won at least a share of the league title since Piatt was a freshman. She went 3 for 3 with two RBI in that game, and SLO High won 4-3.
“That was the game I was wanting all year,” Piatt said. “It was very emotional for me. I was crying at the end of that game, but that’s OK.”
Two weeks later, SLO High took out Arroyo Grande, a team packed with college talent, to clinch the PAC 8 title. SLO High’s “big three” — Piatt, senior Lorin Tapp and freshman pitching sensation Xiao Gin — all came up big in the 2-0 win.
“It was more of a pride thing for us,” Piatt said of the game. “They had this big Senior Night, and it felt more personal — like they were going to try and take it from us. But we weren’t going to let them. That was kind of proving that we are better than everybody gives us credit for.”
SLO High lost in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs but went 16-2 over its last 18 games, a span that included a 10-game winning steak.
Before the Tigers started their streak, they were visited at practice by 2004 graduate and softball legend Katie Burkhart. The former Tigers pitcher wore the National Championship ring she won in 2008 with Arizona State as she spoke to the team. Her message: I am just like you.
“It was really inspiring and cool to hear that anybody here can do it,” Piatt said. “If you really put your mind to it, you can get wherever you want to go.”
Piatt will keep that in mind as she begins her summer travel ball schedule. She plans on joining the Cuesta College softball team in the fall, but there is always a chance a four-year school will come calling at the 11th hour. SLO High’s first-year head coach and former college coach Shelia McGuire thinks Division I softball is in Piatt’s future.
“She definitely was overlooked,” McGuire said. “But she will end up going somewhere and being successful.”
Piatt’s senior season by the numbers
Batting Average: .560
Slugging Percentage: 1.000