By MICHAEL DAILEY
DAILY MAIL SPORTSWRITER
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Not many high school softball players know their way around the diamond like St. Albans’ Madi Marshall and Alyssa Bonham.
While most players settle into a particular position at a young age, both Marshall and Bonham have played their way through a lot of change while in the Red Dragons’ program.
Now seniors, both players are four-year starters, having played a different position every year since their arrival.
Marshall has taken over the pitching duties for the Red Dragons this season, trying to fill the shoes of two-time all-state performer Ali Haynes.
Replacing an all-state selection is nothing new to Marshall, who replaced Rachel Hickman at shortstop last season, after playing second base as a freshman and third base during her sophomore campaign.
Marshall earned second team all-state honors last season.
For Marshall, who previously pitched only in emergency situations, taking the mound isn’t the ideal situation, but it’s something she knows will help the team.
“You just have to deal with the pressure to perform and do whatever the team needs,” said Marshall, prior to her team’s 4-1 home win over Nitro Saturday afternoon. “I’m a left sider. I play either short or third and that’s where I’m most comfortable. That’s my home.
“It’s (pitching) different and it’s a lot more pressure, but I’ve been in a different spot every year. It’s something I’ve gotten used to.”
Marshall (7-8) has tossed 101 innings this season, with 57 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.23.
First-year SA coach Bradley Brown has been impressed with Marshall on the mound, especially with her control.
“She’s a wonderful young lady on and off the field,” Brown said. “Her personality is one of a kind. She’s a happy-go-lucky kid, but she’s also ready to go when it’s time to practice and play.
“She can really hit her spots. If you think of Major League baseball, she reminds me of Greg Maddux. Her control is unbelievable. If you tell her to hit a spot, she hits it.
“Just the way she plays the game is so passionate. She plays with heart, desire and hustle and her understanding of the game is something that can’t be taught.”
Marshall also knows her limitations on the mound.
“I do focus on control,” she said. “I know I’m not a power pitcher, I know that and it’s not going to improve in a month, so I have to get by with what I’ve got.
“I pitch to my strength. I try to just hit my spots. I know I’m not going to blow it by anybody, so I work with what I have. I move the ball around a lot and just throw what’s called.”
While Marshall finishes her prep playing days on the mound, Bonham has settled back into her natural position behind the plate.
Bonham, who played first, second and center field as a freshman before moving to second as a sophomore and third as a junior, is glad to be back in a familiar position.
Although the left-handed batting Bonham hasn’t minded being moved around the diamond.
Bonham is also replacing Mariah Caudill, another all-state pick, behind the plate.
“I really liked it because it helped me stay versatile and I like being able to play anywhere that I’m needed,” Bonham said. “Growing up I played either third base or shortstop, but I was developed into a catcher because I was the only person that could do it.”
Bonham settled in behind the plate at age nine, and stayed there until she reached the Red Dragons’ program.
“I love it behind the plate,” Bonham said. “I’m involved in every pitch and I like seeing everything that’s going on from that view.”
Brown likes the athleticism and intensity that Bonham brings to the diamond.
“She has done a phenomenal job,” Brown said. “She’s one of those athletes that you can put in any position and she’s going to succeed. The athleticism she has is unbelievable and her work ethic is great.
“She comes to practice on time, she’s got her cleats laced up and ready to go and she’s ready to get after it. A lot of players don’t like to slide in practice, but she’s always sliding. She practices like she plays.”
Both seniors have also had solid seasons at the plate.
Marshall, the team’s leading hitter the past two seasons, is at the top again with a .457 average, one homer and 11 RBI.
Bonham is batting .326 from the leadoff position and has earned 14 walks this season.
“Both girls have been great at the plate.” Brown said. “Alyssa’s been our leadoff batter and Madi has been hitting in the three spot. Both of them have put the bat on the ball all year long.”