It’s an experiment that has true benefit and merit, but also one with a big hill to climb before permanent implementation throughout...
Staying as steady as when she was pitching North Medford to the state championship last spring, Maryssa Becker held true to her long-standing commitment to the University of Louisville softball program on Wednesday by signing a letter of intent to join the Cardinals next year.
The 6-foot Black Tornado standout was the Class 6A pitcher of the year and Gatorade player of the year for Oregon last year after going 26-0 with a 0.43 ERA and 313 strikeouts in 178 innings. In the state final, she fanned 15 and allowed only four hits with no walks to deny South Salem for a 3-0 victory.
Becker initially made contact with the Louisville staff in the summer of 2011 during her ASA run with the Oregon Blaze and quickly realized that her future home should be in Kentucky.
"I made a really quick, close bond with the coaches and some of the girls that I had met on my unofficial visit," said the 17-year-old right-hander, "so I knew early on that I was going to be able to fit in really well with them over there."
Last spring, Louisville won the Big East Conference regular season and tournament titles and posted a program-best 55-5 overall record. The Cardinals also made their ninth straight NCAA tournament appearance and finished the season at No. 18 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball coaches poll.
"That was another thing that kind of drew me to Louisville was their ability to compete and their extremely tough conference," said Becker, who also hit .475 with seven home runs and 47 RBIs last year for the Black Tornado.
North Medford head coach Mike Mayben said he's confident Becker has what it takes to succeed at the next level given her considerable talent and work ethic.
"She puts in the time to be ready and prepared, both mentally and physically," said Mayben. "Obviously the physical tools are there. She's got the height, she's got the strength and works out and works hard at it, but the mental part of the game is just as important and I have no doubt she'll be able to pitch at that level and be able to compete."
Becker said she has remained in almost weekly contact with the Louisville coaches during her recruitment and never really wavered in her decision. She said the Cardinals seem just as excited about having her on board as she is to be part of the program.
"They said that I will have the ability to make an impact right away and I like that," said Becker. "I think that they want me to kind of come in and pitch a little bit my freshman year and I think being kinda thrown into a program like that will be really beneficial for me. For as hard as they work out there and as hard as I will work, I think that getting that playing time really will pay off for how far the program will go."
All that will have to wait a while as Becker still has work to do for North Medford this year. She's making her return to the basketball courts this winter and then will gear up to help power the Black Tornado in defense of its state title, which was the program's second in four years and sixth overall.
Still, Mayben didn't mind taking a few moments away from those preparations to be involved in Wednesday's ceremony at North Medford High, which was complete with several of Becker's friends and family members.
"It's always exciting getting an opportunity to see them going on to college," said Mayben. "The ultimate goal is that they get their education and go on to college and have the opportunity to get that degree, whether they're playing softball or not. But it's extra-special when they're playing (Division I) softball."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry