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Confidence helps Marshall live up to early expectations at Parkview

Parkview’s Mac Marshall has been selected as the Daily Post’s baseball super six. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

Parkview’s Mac Marshall has been selected as the Daily Post’s baseball super six. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

LILBURN — From the day he first put on a Parkview baseball uniform, Mac Marshall has had high expectations to live up to.

And expectations can hardly get any higher than the ones the 6-foot-2, 190-pound left-hander faces as he takes the mound for the Panthers as his senior year begins.

“There were a couple of (projections) that came out that had him in the top 15 picks (of this summer’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft),” Parkview head coach Chan Brown said of Marshall. “Every scout thinks that if he throws the ball the way he’s capable of throwing it this spring, he’s going to be a first-round pick.”

Such expectations naturally carry pressure to perform along with it.

Then again, pressure is something Marshall has been dealing with since the beginning of his high school career.

The explosive fastball and excellent breaking pitch and change-up during travel ball had already earned him a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia before his freshman season had even begun.

Yet through the bulk of his first two years of his high school career, he had a difficult time translating that live arm and potential into success.

“I think I expected myself to do a lot better than I did and put a lot of pressure a lot of pressure on myself because of how good our team was,” Marshall said. “Guys like Matt (Olson) and all those standout players. So, I put a lot of pressure on myself. And the (success of the Parkview) program comes with pressure.”

Indeed, the self-imposed pressure Marshall felt trying to support a team that included such stars as future first-round draft picks Matt Olson and Josh Hart, as well as other players whom had had grown up with and considered like family, began to take its toll.

Marshall endured two straight seasons with a sky-high ERA, and struggled even worse in the postseason, lasting no more than an inning in his first three playoff starts, including not even recording a single out in two of them.

“I think some of it was believing — he knew he belonged, and his three best friends (Rob) Youngblood, (Jack) Esmonde and Olson were his support cast,” Brown said. “But he almost tried (too) hard because he wanted to win for them more than anything. I think sometimes he went out there trying too hard.

“He definitely got thrown into the fire. It made him grow up probably a little quicker than, mentally more than physically, than he needed to. But we felt like he had his stuff. … I think Mackey will tell you that was the turning point in him believing in himself. It was more of a thing through the first two years where he had a head coach who believed in him more than he did. … He’s always had the make-up, but like I said, it’s always been a thing where he’s trying too hard to win for his friends and this program. He’s finally realize he needed to relax a little bit and go to work.”

Brown believed in Marshall enough to turn to the then sophomore with the Panthers’ season on the line in Game 3 of the 2012 Class AAAAA state quarterfinals at Hillgrove — the team they had defeated to win the state title a year earlier.

That’s when everything changed.

Marshall threw 5 1/3 clutch innings, giving up just three hits and two earned runs to pick up the win in Parkview’s 8-5 victory that allowed the Panthers’ season to continue en route to their second straight state title.

While he didn’t get to pitch in either of the final two series that season, those tangible results in the Game 3 win over Hillgrove filled him with a new feeling he’d not felt before during the high school season.

It was far more effective than any encouraging words Brown or his teammates has given him before when he was struggling.

“I think it was big confidence-wise to have an outing where I could go longer than an inning in the playoffs and contribute to my team,” Marshall said. “It was definitely big for my confidence factor.

“It was kind in one ear out the other when they tell you you’re going to be all right because you want to see the results more than anything else. It was huge to pitch that outing. I definitely felt like it was a turning point where hopefully, I could become a leader on the mound like Coach Brown was always preaching to me. So, it was definitely a confidence booster.”

The difference could be easily seen when Marshall took the mound for his junior season a year ago.

Despite struggling with some tendinitis in his arm late last spring, he posted a 6-2 record with a 2.33 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 45 innings of work in helping the Panthers back to another Region 8-AAAAAA championship and a return to the Class AAAAAA state semifinals.

That newfound confidence grew even further as Marshall, who has since changed his mind about a college future by signing with LSU, stepped onto the national and international stage this past summer.

In addition to pitching in the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic, he made USA Baseball’s U18 National Team and contributed to its gold medal-winning performance at the 2013 IBAF Junior ‘AAA’/18U World Cup in Taiwan.

And even as the expectations have grown with the increased scrutiny from college and professional scouts, his confidence has remained.

That’s because he has embraced the possibility of becoming sixth Gwinnett senior to be a first-round pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft in as many years, and not backing down from the pressure that comes with following in the footsteps of Olson, Hart, Brookwood’s Lucas Sims and Grayson’s Austin Meadows, as well as other big names from Parkview’s past.

“Seeing how Matt handle himself through everything he went through, … that definitely helps,” Marshall said. “He talks all the time about handling yourself in pressure situations, since he’s obviously the best at it. I feel a lot more (comfortable).

“It’s very humbling to be mentioned with guys like Olson and Hart and (Grayson’s Austin) Meadows. It’s really cool. Matt kind of walked me through it and (emphasized) just playing your game. Don’t do anything different for the scouts. Just be you and let things fall into place.”