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James Marsden became a integral member of the Valley Regional baseball team’s pitching staff as a freshman, finishing the year with four wins and a pair of saves. (Photo courtesy of James Marsden )
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James Marsden came on strong to play a pivotal role for the Valley Regional baseball team as a freshman this spring. James took the ball to start on Opening Day and wound up posting four wins with two saves and 51 strikeouts on the year. The Warriors finished the season with 12 victories, and James had a heavy hand in their success.
One of James’s biggest wins came when he pitched 6.2 innings to lead the Warriors to a 4-2 victory over Killingly in the first round of the Class M State Tournament. The win marked Valley’s first State Tournament victory since the 2006 campaign. The freshman lefty had everything working on the hill that day.
“That first state win, that’s fresh, and it was great. I was really happy that we got that win for the seniors, and that I got the win on the mound,” says James. “I had my slider that day. When I have my slider, it makes a huge difference to me. The slider makes me more unpredictable for the hitters.”
James doesn’t really need extra motivation in order to spin a gem, although he did have a big incentive to pitch well in states. James wanted to get the win so he could give his senior teammates one more chance to take the field, especially catcher Josh Ross.
“I love my teammates, and that’s a lot of my motivation, especially for the states game. I wanted the seniors to be able to play beyond that first-round game. I didn’t want that game to be their last,” James says. “I’m going to miss our seniors next year. Josh was the best catcher that I’ve ever thrown to. That was really great this year.”
James’s state tourney victory served as a nice bookend to his first start of the year versus Portland. James allowed just one unearned run in a 1-0 loss to a squad that would go on to the win Shoreline Conference Tournament. James had some jitters, but settled in nicely, and displayed great poise while facing a formidable opponent.
“My first start was the first game of the season against Portland. Before the game, I felt nervous,” says James, who lives in Ivoryton. “That’s when I mostly will feel nervous—if it’s a big game or something new. Once I start pitching, I forget about all that, and I just try to win.”
James’s repertoire includes a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, and a slider that he throws with a three-quarters arm angle. James believes that the slider is a huge asset for him, because opposing batters don’t get to see too many southpaws with his kind of stuff.
“It’s not often that the hitters I face get to see breaking pitches from a lefty. That’s why I like my slider so much. Even when it’s not working at its best, it’s something different that they may not see very often,” James says. “My fastball has a good amount of movement, too. I mainly throw a four-seam, but I worked on a two-seamer toward the end of the season.”
It didn’t take long for Head Coach Brian Drinkard to realize that James was going to make a difference for Valley this year. After watching James pitch during the preseason, Drinkard knew that the freshman was on a fast track to the varsity mound.
“The plan going into the season was to try to let James get comfortable at JV, but as soon as we saw him pitch, we just knew that wouldn’t happen. We had him pitch in scrimmages, and he ended up being our Opening Day starter. From that point on, I knew we had something special,” says Drinkard. “I think as James develops as a pitcher and gets bigger and stronger, he’ll have a fastball that he can control games with. The sky is the limit for him with his tools.”
James is also a member of the football and boys’ basketball programs at Valley Regional, playing quarterback and forward, respectively. Juggling three sports over the course of a year can be challenging, but James enjoys playing each one of them. With his freshman year behind him, James is ready to take the next step as a sophomore.
“It mainly goes seasonal for me. I try to focus on what sport I’m playing that season. I think all my sports help me play the other ones,” James says. “I’ve been playing sports for so long. It’s been constant in my life. I wouldn’t really know what to do with myself if it wasn’t for sports.”
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