BY ROSS SHINBERG, STAFF WRITER
Over the past four years at Mason, redshirt senior Marina Vitalich has set the standard for pitching in the green and gold uniform.
However, those are not the only two colors in which she pitches.
In Europe, Vitalich steps onto softball diamonds in a red and white uniform as a player on the Croatian National Softball Team. Most notably, she has represented Croatia multiple times in the European Women’s Softball Championship.
She has played in the European Women’s Softball Championship three times and has also played for the Under-19 Junior’s team during one tournament.
When Vitalich played travel softball, an employee of the training facility she used approached her about the opportunity to play internationally. The employee, who was a member of the Colombian National Softball Team, told her to reach out to the Croatian team and inquire about playing.
After connecting with and getting a response back from the Croatian team, both Vitalich and her younger sister, Amanda, applied for citizenship in an attempt to join the national team.
“I could play anywhere in the world with any country on club teams. But for a national team, you have to have citizenship,” Vitalich said.
After finalizing the citizenship process at the Croatian consulate in Los Angeles, she was set to play with her new team in the tournament.
Reflecting on her time with the Croatian National Team at the various European championships, she noted that the game is still the same, but that the number of different cultures and countries represented at the tournament gives her some unique experiences and memories that she cannot necessarily get at Mason.
“In our dugout, we’re speaking Croatian, and the girls speak English also. But our opponent could be speaking German, or they could be speaking Russian,” Vitalich said. “It was super cool to be around all that.”
Before her adventures across the pond, Vitalich was highly sought after coming out of high school after deciding to pursue softball instead of basketball. During the recruitment process, she had interest from multiple Division I schools, including Mason.
“I originally was not planning on coming this far away from home,” the San Pedro, California native said. “I ended up choosing Mason after a showcase in Texas. I met the coach, and after that, we developed a rapport. Then I visited the campus, and I really liked the area. So I felt like Mason was a good fit.”
In hindsight, it was a tremendous fit for both Mason and Vitalich.
With 501 career strikeouts, Vitalich sits alone in first place on Mason softball’s all-time strikeout leaderboard. She has thrown nearly 500 innings at Mason over 102 appearances, including 73 starts. Over those 73 starts, 40 of them are complete games. Of the 40 complete games, 9 are shutouts.
With the gaudy stats that Vitalich put up, the accolades soon followed. After her freshman season in 2016, she earned All-Rookie and Second-Team All-Conference honors. Her efforts during her sophomore season, which include 32 starts, a 1.87 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP, earned her the Atlantic 10 Co-Pitcher of the Year honor, along with a spot on the First-Team All-Conference list.
Her time on the mound at Mason has been nothing short of phenomenal, but her journey did not sail the entire way smoothly.
“[During] my junior year, I got super sick. I ended up sitting out of my junior season,” Vitalich said. “I was not sure if I would actually ever be able to play softball again.”
After six months of medications and recovery, she got approval to play from her doctor.
“I finally went to the doctor’s, and they said that I could actually play again. That was probably the greatest thing I could ever hear,” Vitalich explained.
Vitalich mentioned how she did not have high expectations for her senior season after spending so much time in recovery. But she did not miss a beat, throwing over 100 innings and sporting a 2.83 ERA. Her achievements earned her another spot on the A-10 All-Conference Second Team and a place on the A-10 Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
Now, as she begins preparations for her fifth and final season as a Patriot, Vitalich’s primary goal is to leave with no regrets.
She said, “Win or lose, I just want to give it all I have and make it the best season possible. I’m excited for this season because it’s going to be my last and I just want to make it the best that I can.”