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BASEBALL PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Consistency helps Parkview's Marshall live up to high expectations

Parkview’s Mac Marshall is the Daily Post’s pitcher of the year and finished the season 9-1 with a 0.63 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings. (Staff Photo: David Friedlander)

Parkview’s Mac Marshall is the Daily Post’s pitcher of the year and finished the season 9-1 with a 0.63 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings. (Staff Photo: David Friedlander)

LILBURN — Knowing the eyes of baseball observers throughout Gwinnett County, Georgia and the nation were on him as his senior season approached, Parkview’s Mac Marshall was determined to live up to his high billing this spring.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound left-hander definitely didn’t disappoint.

“He’s developed a lot of mental toughness and he’s competed and been able to enjoy a great senior season,” Parkview coach Chan Brown said of the 2014 Daily Post Pitcher of the Year. “He’s been through a lot of great baseball experiences throughout his career. He did a tremendous job as a leader on the mound. Whenever he took the ball, we were confident we were going to win.”

The Panthers have done a lot of winning over the years, and especially this season when Marshall, who was 9-1 with a 0.63 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings in helping the Panthers to another Region 8-AAAAAA championship and the Class AAAAAA state semifinals for the fourth straight season.

And it was more than the statistics that demonstrated that Marshall finished his high school career with his best season.

For one thing, he said he felt the best about his pitching than he has at any time of his career in every respect.

Physically, it was the first time he’s felt totally healthy for an entire season, especially after battling through bicep tendinitis a year earlier as a junior.

In addition, Marshall says he felt like he had the best command of his pitches that he’s ever had.

“It was actually the first year (since) I’ve been in high school that I didn’t have to miss a start or anything like that,” Marshall said. “So, it was definitely a good year health-wise. … There were times where it was obvious that I’d lost the feel a little bit. You just have to battle through it and get your feel back. For the most part, I was pretty consistent with having my stuff there.”

Just how consistent and overpowering was Marshall?

He went nearly the entire regular season — his first 39 2/3 innings of the season— before finally giving up an earned run in his final start before the state playoffs.

Throw in five shutout innings he pitched in his final start of 2013 and it ran his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 44 2/3 innings.

To a pitcher who entered the season with as high expectations as Marshall did, the streak could have added even more pressure for him by simply taking on a life of its own.

But rather than pitch cautiously, Marshall said he embraced the streak.

“I guess once it got to a certain point where I saw (people mentioning it) on Twitter, it got into my mind,” Marshall said. “It was just something to have fun with. I was trying to … keep putting up zeroes. So, I had fun with it. It wasn’t a pressure thing or anything like that.”

Besides, Marshall has come to learn to deal with pressure throughout his career.

From his freshman season, when he already verbally committed to pitch collegiately at Georgia, but couldn’t get out of the first inning of two postseason starts, though a sophomore season when he came into his own with a clutch start in a Game 3 win in the state semifinals to the last two seasons, when he has been the dominant force he’s become, he’s grown up a lot.

And he says a lot of credit for that goes to not only Brown and his coaching staff, but his teammates.

“(Brown) gave me a vote of confidence (throughout the past four years),” Marshall said. “He gave me the ball each and every Game 1 the last two years. He’s got confidence in me, so I just had to run with it.

“I knew I had an incredible defense behind me, a coaching staff I worked with every day and they always had my back whether I had a good start or a bad start or somewhere in between.”

There haven’t been a lot of bad starts for Marshall and the Panthers the last two seasons, and he is hoping to continue that momentum as he takes his talents to the next level.

Exactly how high that next level is remains to be seen.

Though he was ranked high enough to be projected into the second round of this year’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, the complexities of the process and negotiations for signing bonuses may have played a factor in him slipping to the 21st round before he was selected by the Houston Astros on Saturday.

And with a scholarship waiting for him at LSU, where he switched his commitment last year, Marshall has his options.

But for now, he simply chooses to reflect on a stellar high school career that includes state championships his freshman and sophomore seasons.

“It seems like yesterday I was barely able to get out of the first inning in the playoffs my freshman year,” Marshall said. “It’s just crazy to think my high school career is over at Parkview. It was probably the best four years of baseball in my life.

“(Senior year) was everything I was hoping for, except for probably (wanting) one more start in the state championship (series). As a team, that was pretty frustrating, but it was a fun year.”