COLUMBIA — One is a senior, one a sophomore. The former is an outfielder, the latter a shortstop. One leads vocally, the other talks only through her play.
Both senior outfielder Rhea Taylor and sophomore shortstop Jenna Marston have been named to USA Softball’s Top 50 Watch List for the 2011 College Player of the Year Award.
When: 3 p.m.
Where: Devine Pavilion
And both don’t really care.
“It’s a cool thing, but it’s a preseason pick, so it doesn’t mean anything until you’ve done something,” Marston said.
Taylor feels the same way, saying she’s more concerned with awards later in the season.
“Top 50 is important, but once you get down to the top 25, like halfway through (the season), that’s the one you really want to be in,” Taylor said.
She’s familiar with being in that position. Included in the list of Taylor’s numerous accolades last year was finishing on USA Softball’s Top 25 list.
Taylor was tapped as a Third Team All-American at the end of last season after batting .452 to lead the Big 12 and set a new Missouri record. Taylor also broke the MU record for most career stolen bases, passing Julie Link’s 21-year old mark of 110.
“Rhea Taylor is the front person,” coach Ehren Earleywine said. “She’s our lead-off hitter, she’s the most colorful, animated, exciting player.”
Marston, on the other hand, is much more reserved. But her play speaks just as loudly as Taylor’s voice.
Marston started all but one game for the Tigers as a freshman last season. She finished with 16 doubles, the third most in a single season in Missouri’s history, while recording 15 multi-hit games and leading the team with 13 multi-RBI games. Marston’s season-long performance earned her a spot on the All-Big 12 First Team.
As if that wasn’t enough, Marston’s most impressive honor came just last month. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America awarded her with the John E. Wray Award for achievements outside of professional baseball.
Marston’s softball efforts at Missouri certainly were taken into account for the award. But what solidified it was her leadership role on the USA Baseball women’s national team that won bronze this past summer in Venezuela at the 2010 International Baseball Federation’s World Cup. Marston led the team with a .593 batting average, and finished with the most hits (16) and doubles (8) of any player in the tournament.
Coming off that type of performance and a national BBWAA award, most would think Marston’s confidence is soaring heading into the season. But she said it’s remained relatively unaffected. The most helpful thing that came out of her trip to Venezuela was learning how to deal with distractions.
“Down there they had sound effects between every single pitch,” Marston said. “There were more fans than I’ve ever played in front of in my life. … So when we get back to the College World Series, it won’t be such a shock and it won’t be much compared to down there.”
Getting back to the College World Series is exactly where Marston’s focus lies now. Don’t bother to even mention her past accomplishments.
“If you ask her about it, you won’t get five words out of her mouth,” Earleywine said. “She’s so humble and just wants to try to deflect any attention. … She’s, to me, kind of a throwback to old-time baseball players. She plays it for the right reason.”
Entering her sophomore season, Marston said she has a better understanding of the college game and has different goals than she did a year ago.
“I’d like to be more consistent than last year,” Marston said. “Having a year of experience will help just having an understanding of the length of the season. It’s not about the next couple months, it’s finishing at the end.”