By Rob Potter
SULLIVAN COUNTY Even though she will not begin her junior year at Livingston Manor Central School until next month, Marissa Diescher already knows where she will be playing softball in college.
Last week, Diescher, an outstanding three-sport athlete, made a verbal commitment to attend Penn State University and play for the Nittany Lions softball team.
Penn State Head Coach Robin Petrini, Assistant Coach Jen McIntyre and Pitching Coach Michele Hawkins had the chance to see Diescher pitch during a three-day, four-night softball camp held last month at Penn State’s main campus in University Park, Pa.
“They didn’t want me to throw my fastball too much, they wanted me to throw my other pitches,” Diescher said.
Those other pitches included a changeup, drop ball and rise ball.
The three coaches were so impressed with Diescher’s performance that Petrini called Diescher last week to offer the 16-year-old Livingston Manor resident a full athletic scholarship worth approximately $36,000 per year.
Diescher happily accepted the scholarship offer.
“I am very excited, Penn State is really where I wanted to go,” she said.
About 20 different NCAA Division I schools recruited Diescher. In addition to Penn State, she made visits to Boston University, Marist, Syracuse and the University of Connecticut this year.
But two key factors helped Diescher become a Nittany Lion.
“I like all of the Penn State coaches, they are very nice,” she commented. “And they want me to continue playing other sports. Some college coaches want you to focus on just one sport, but the Penn State coaches told me to keep playing soccer and basketball.
“Penn State is close to home and that is important to me,” Diescher added. “I want my family and everyone I love to be able to come and see me play.”
While she has a great deal of natural talent, Diescher has worked extremely hard over the past few years to make the best of that ability. Her work ethic will not waver now that she has earned an athletic scholarship to one of the nation’s largest universities.
“I want to keep working hard,” she said. “I want to work on my pitches and learn some new pitches.”
Diescher did just fine with her current pitches this past spring as she led the Livingston Manor Lady Wildcats to the Section IX Class D championship game for the second straight year.
For the 2009 season, Diescher had a 16-3 record and a 0.17 ERA. She struck out 303 batters in 126 innings.
She threw four no-hitters, including a perfect game against Eldred, and had four one-hitters.
Incredibly, Diescher walked only nine batters all season and gave up just 25 hits.
She helped her own cause at the plate by recording a .519 batting average.
This summer, Diescher played for the Tri-State Angels traveling softball team based in Port Jervis and Matamoras, Pa. She helped the team post a 36-4-1 record.
She also trains year round at Pro Prospects Baseball and Softball Training Center in Monticello.
“It’s exciting and her mother, Tracey, and I are very happy for Marissa,” said Marissa’s father Mike Diescher. “She has worked pretty hard for this.”
Mike Diescher praised Pro Prospects Pitching Coach Darren Rea and Hitting Coach Jed Carrier for all of their work to help Marissa improve her game.
Livingston Manor Co-Coaches Kevin Clifford and Charlie Hicks are also happy for Marissa Diescher.
“Penn State is a great school and has a great athletic program,” Hicks said. “It’s a great fit for Marissa. I am very excited for her.”
Hicks noted that Diescher’s constant drive to keep improving helped her earn the scholarship.
“She is always working hard,” he explained. “She wants to be the best at whatever she does.”
Clifford agreed with Hicks.
“It’s great that she earned this scholarship,” Clifford said. “To have a scholarship to a big school at such a young age is incredible. What she has accomplished is great for the school and great for the community.
“We have to thank Darren Rea and the staff at Pro Prospects for working with Marissa,” Clifford added.
Clifford believes that making her college decision so early is beneficial for Diescher.
“It takes some pressure off of her,” Clifford said. “She can relax a little bit and not worry about which scouts are at a game to watch her.”
While Diescher has received help and encouragement from the staff at Pro Prospects, Clifford, Hicks and her family and friends, her ability to motivate herself and desire to improve are perhaps the biggest reasons she will be playing for the Nittany Lions after graduating from Livingston Manor in 2011.
“Marissa is the hardest working athlete I’ve ever met,” Clifford said. “She is always giving it her all. She is out on the soccer field an hour before practice in the 90-degree heat.”