COLUMBIA — Missouri freshman softball player Jenna Marston grew up playing baseball. It is a sport she has loved all her life.
She was part of co-ed teams from the age of 7 and quickly became a fan of the nearest Major League team.
“We would sit at home and we would watch Cardinals games together,” said Jenna Martson’s father, Bill Marston. “She was very observant and was able to pick out stuff. She really developed a knowledge of the game and a love for it.”
She grew up watching her older brother Christopher Marston play for Principia High School in St. Louis where her father was coach. It was always her dream to be on the same team as her father and brother. So, when Jenna Marston went to high school, there was no doubt she was going to play baseball. Bill Marston said there was not one moment where he thought otherwise.
“It wasn’t really, ‘Do you want to play baseball?’ It was 'I’m going to play baseball,'” Jenna Marston said.
And certainly no one on the Principia baseball team was about to give her any grief.
“I guess they better not have with me as coach and her brother on the team,” Bill Marston said laughing.
Besides, Jenna Marston hardly seemed out of place out on the field.
“She wore her hair so short and had athleticism like a lot like guys do, so some people may not have noticed,” Bill Marston said.
She easily kept up with her teammates. Her father said she had average speed and above average arm strength compared to the boys.
“I think I earned some respect and held my own enough not to get ribbed too much,” Marston said smiling.
“They knew she was there because she was a baseball player,” Bill Marston said. “It was just natural for her to play with the boys, so it wasn’t a big deal. Because she was good, they accepted her.”
Jenna Marston was an exceptional contact hitter and excelled at hitting balls into the outfield gaps. Her junior year she had a .400 batting average, but it was her senior year where she turned heads. She had the best batting average on the team at .469 and earned first team all-conference honors.
“She was really good at not striking out,” Bill Marston said. “She was good at fouling off pitches, and she drew a lot of walks so her on base percentage was high.”
She was a utility player and her father didn’t hesitate to play her at any position, even pitcher. Her brother was a pitcher and she wanted to give it a try. Jenna Marston threw pitches in the low 70’s and developed a solid changeup and respectable curve ball.
Because in high school, baseball is played during the spring and softball during the fall, Jenna could play both sports. Jenna Marston said was not immediately receptive to the idea of playing softball because her father and her viewed it as “a watered down version of baseball.” But after watching a few games, Jenna Marston and her father had a change of heart.
“We saw how great the game really was,” Bill Marston said. “So she decided to give it a try.”
She ended up earning All-State honors her junior and senior years, and after high school, Jenna Marston decided to give up playing the game she loved to play softball for the Missouri Tigers.
“I was disappointed, I really wanted to play baseball,” Jenna Marston said. “But I also knew baseball wasn’t going to really take me anywhere. If I was going to play in college, I knew I was going to play softball. I had a lot of fun (playing baseball) and it’s paid off.”
Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine agrees. He has coached both softball and baseball teams, and said playing baseball has helped Marston, who plays shortstop, defensively. Baseball fields are bigger than softball fields and playing baseball helped develop arm strength.
“A baseball is much harder to field because it’s smaller and heavier than a softball,” Earleywine said. “She has the one of the best if not the best arm on the team.”
Earleywine said Marston is unique because she “moves like a guy.”
“She is graceful,” Earleywine said. “Her movements are rhythmic and coordinated, not chopped up and segmented. If you watch Mizzou baseball players they have much more fluid movement than us. She runs and throws just like them. I think she picked that up watching and emulating other baseball players growing up.”
Earleywine has praised Marston all season, saying she has been one of the most consistent hitters on the team. She has a solid mechanical swing which she attributes learning from her father. She hits third in the batting order and leads the team with 48 RBIs (fifth in the Big 12). She also has a .388 batting average (fifth in the Big 12).
Earleywine said Marston had a bright future and said he wouldn’t be surprised if she earns All-American honors in the next three years.
“She can only get better, she is about where you would want to be,” he said. “With the work ethic she has, she’ll get there.”