There was a time when Marrin McLeod's interest in softball may have waned a little bit.
McLeod, a 2021 graduate of Gladstone High School who turned 18 on Friday, Aug. 6, quit playing travel ball a handful of years ago and even saw her interest in high school softball ebb over time.
But that was before the shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic stole her junior season at Gladstone in the spring of 2020. With that loss — and the ensuing isolation that followed over the next year — McLeod's competitive fire re-ignited.
In her final season at Gladstone — a shortened six-week campaign from mid-March to April 20 due to continuing pandemic restrictions — McLeod was absolutely great.
Playing shortstop for the first time in her life, she led the Gladiators to a Tri-Valley Conference championship with a 9-3 record as well as a berth in the season-ending Class 4A Showcase, the de facto state playoffs for 2021.
Along the way, she raked in a ton of awards, including TVC Player of the Year, first-team all-TVC honors as an infielder and utility player, second-team all-TVC as a pitcher, and honorable mention Class 4A all-state recognition as both an infielder and utility player.
"Honestly, I feel like COVID taking away my junior year kind of made me have a bigger appreciation for it than I did before because I never had it like taken away from me like that," she said. "There were years of travel (ball) where I stopped playing because it just kind of became too much, but that was more my choice than it being taken away from me. … So, I think that just made me realize how big of a passion I have for it."
"Honestly, I feel like COVID taking away my sophomore year kind of made me have a bigger appreciation for it than I did before."
— Marrin McLeod
That passion paid off in 2021, not just for her Gladstone team, but also for McLeod herself. While she hadn't previously considered playing at the next level, McLeod is now looking forward to competing as a member of the Mt. Hood Community College team in the spring of 2022.
"Originally, I wasn't even planning on playing softball in college, but then there was one game — I think, at Estacada — where my coaches said to me 'You need to play next year,'" she said. "And after that encouragement, I was like, 'OK. I'll go for it then.'
"I knew I wanted to go to Mt. Hood for criminal justice because I noticed they had a good program, and then I just kept thinking about it and looking more into it and I was like, 'Hey. Mt. Hood seems like a good school for softball as well' so it kind of just fit perfectly."
Brittany Hendrickson, the head softball coach at Mt. Hood, couldn't agree more.
"Marrin established herself as one of the top athletes in the surrounding area," Hendrickson said. "Whenever we see athletes with her talent level, we try to keep them in our backyard. She can hit extremely well and has the athleticism that allows her to be a true utility player. With that, we expect Marrin to compete right away for a starting role and be a big contributor in our lineup."
Inspired to take her best shot as a senior, McLeod — she previously earned honorable mention all-TVC honors as a sophomore before losing her junior year to COVID — went out with a bang.
As the team's starting shortstop and relief pitcher, McLeod pretty much did it all in 2021. In 15 games, she racked up 60 at-bats and finished with a .588 batting average, 26 RBIs and just two strikeouts. In her first year at shortstop, she shone again with a fielding percentage of .977. And as a relief pitcher, she threw 37 innings and held opponents to a batting average of just .267.
Along with just getting to play as a senior, making the successful transition to shortstop was one of the highlights of McLeod's year.
"Honestly, before I played infield, I was a little scared of ground balls," she admitted. "I don't know if (Gladstone's coaches) saw something specific in me that I could do it or what, but they kind of just threw me in there.
"I think the hardest part about it was probably just knowing where to go when the ball comes to me. … At shortstop, you have to know if you're turning and going (to third base), second or home or first. There's so many more options depending on who's on base. There's some real challenges about it."
And even though her team didn't finish as well as McLeod hoped — the Gladiators lost their two culminating week games (to La Grande at Umatilla and to Cascade in a downpour at Gladstone) — her love of softball is perhaps stronger than ever.
"I feel like the excitement that everyone had to be back, it really brought our energy up in the dugout and that really helped with how we played," McLeod said. "I feel like I was playing more this year just to enjoy the time rather than … go and win a state championship or something."
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