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Could Marissa Schuld be Arizona softball’s next great hitting pitcher?

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Marissa Schuld may be Arizona’s future in the circle, but she grew up as a Sun Devil fan. Don’t hold that against her, though. The Scottsdale native saw the light at a young age.

“Once (Arizona) showed interest in me—which is in about eighth grade, I think—that’s when I fell in love with the school and I was following the softball program pretty heavy,” Schuld said. “And, then, it all happened from there.”

As one of two freshman pitchers, Schuld enters the UA program with big expectations. The right-hander was named the Gatorade Arizona Softball Player of the Year for both the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

In 2018, she was also tabbed as the FloSoftball High School Player of the Year. Schuld led Phoenix’s Pinnacle High School to a state title in the 6A division, despite suffering an injury that kept her out of the circle for part of her senior season.

Schuld also comes in with a built-in role model to help her reach those expectations, comparing herself to UA pitching coach Taryne Mowatt.

“I’d say our height, number one,” Schuld said when asked about their similarities. “And just our style of pitches. She didn’t really throw a drop ball, as she’s told me, and I don’t throw a drop ball this year yet.”

At one time, Arizona was known for tall pitchers. Jennie Finch and Alicia Hollowell come to mind as prototypical Wildcat hurlers. But Mowatt proved that being over six feet wasn’t required. At 5 feet, 6 inches, she was the last Wildcat pitcher to lead her team to a Women’s College World Series title. Arizona fans hope the 5-foot-3 Schuld can help Arizona replicate that feat 12 years later.

If she does, her contribution may not be confined to pitching. Schuld has been getting reps in the outfield, too.

“Marissa Schuld is a good athlete that can swing the bat,” said Arizona coach Mike Candrea. “And if she swings the bat successfully come game time, then you gotta find a place for her. That place for her right now is in left field. But her biggest responsibility for this team is to pitch.”

It’s not unheard of for an Arizona pitcher to hit — and hit well. Finch didn’t just go 32-0 in 2001. She also had a .307 batting average and blasted 11 home runs. Finch led the Wildcats in home runs, batting average and extra base hits at different points over her four-year career in Tucson.

If it’s up to Schuld, she wants to hit.

“I’m working for it,” she said. “I have to just take advantage of my opportunities.”

It’s been a while since an Arizona pitcher did that, though. Even Schuld’s new pitching coach only got regular at-bats during her sophomore season. By her senior season, Mowatt no longer stepped into the batter’s box.

The hitting pitcher is not entirely something of the past, though. Looking around today’s Pac-12, it’s not hard to find an example of a dominant pitcher who is also dominant in the batter’s box. UCLA’s Rachel Garcia, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year, is the best example.

Can Schuld be Arizona’s answer to Garcia?

Her numbers in high school suggest it is possible. Over her four years at Pinnacle, Schuld compile a .470 average. That rose to .574 her senior season. In her junior and senior seasons, she hit a total of 31 home runs over 70 games. Her OPS went from an impressive 1.648 as a junior to an eye-popping 1.878 as a senior, while compiling a 0.74 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 76 innings.

While Candrea wants to utilize both Schuld’s bat and arm, he isn’t so sure about having her hit and pitch in the same game.

“It depends,” he replied. “If that’s our best option on a given day, I may do that. But I don’t think I ever go into the season with a plan of that happening, especially a freshman.”

No matter where Schuld is on game day, whether that be in the outfield, the circle or the batter’s box, you can always expect her to give it her all.

“I like Marissa,” Candrea said. “I like her competitiveness. She brings everything that she has to the table every day. So it’s just a matter of letting her grow. She’s going to be a very good player.”