Story by Jon Dinan
In her third game in her freshman season at Penn State, pitcher Marissa Diescher got slammed in the chest by a line drive from a University of Wisconsin batter. It was a blow that would alter the landscape of her inaugural year at the Division I school.
Diescher, 19, a 2011 Livingston Manor CS grad, has been playing softball for nearly half of her life. She was recruited by the Nittany Lions during her sophomore year at Manor, where she played varsity softball and basketball since she was an eighth grader, and soccer since her freshman year of high school.
Although she excelled in every sport she took part in, it was as a pitcher in softball where she really stood out.
In her high school career, Diescher threw two perfect games and 18 no-hitters. She recorded 1,094 strikeouts and posted a 0.49 earned run average.
More than 20 Division I schools scouted Diescher, including UConn, Boston University, Syracuse, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Marist and South Florida.
She decided early on in her days at Manor that Penn State was her desired destination, but once she began her first season of NCAA softball, she discovered quickly that Class D high school sports and Division I college athletics are completely different worlds.
During her first season with Penn State, a school known for its athletic prowess, Diescher was 5-9 with a 5.22 ERA.
“It was a bigger jump than she had anticipated,” Penn State Softball Coach Robin Petrini said. “She’s strong when she’s comfortable and she can throw very hard, but she struggled with her control. She needs to find the confidence to trust her pitches.”
In a phone interview, Diescher talked about her transition.
“My first year was definitely a learning experience. It was a huge jump in both school work and sports. The level of competition is so much greater,” she said.
Diescher got off to a magical 3-0 start, but both she and her coach attributed some of her loss of confidence and control to a comeback line drive that struck the 5-foot-10 hurler in the chest during a win over Wisconsin.
“I became intimidated by some of the hitters,” Diescher admitted.
She added, “I need to improve my mental game. I can’t be intimidated because then I lose control of the game. My first season didn’t go exactly the way I wanted, but we’ll have a lot of returning starters next year. I think we’ll have a better hitting team so there won’t be as much pressure on the pitchers.”
“I expect her to do great things in the future. She certainly has the potential,” said Petrini, whose Nittany Lions finished 1832 overall and 915 in the Big 10 Conference.
Diescher says her best attributes as a pitcher are her abilities to throw hard and apply movement. Her speed, in tandem with a proven change-up, rise, and drop ball, can baffle batters. With regained control, her 2013 season will be a welcome change from this past spring.
Diescher, a physical education major, recently began her sophomore year at Penn State main campus. She hopes to teach and/or coach softball after graduation, but for now, she is training hard for her second season as a Nittany Lion.