Longtime ConVal baseball coach calls it a career

  • ConVal baseball coach Mike Marschok at a game in 2019. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mike Marschok and Ross Davis celebrate ConVal's baseball championship in 2006. File photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/7/2021 12:27:32 PM

Mike Marschok couldn’t have scripted his first season as head coach of the ConVal varsity baseball team any better.

It was 2006, and as Marschok put it, “everything was in place.”

“We had great pitching, great defense and great hitting,” he said.

The Cougars entered the postseason as the fifth seed with a 13-4 record and got a 2-0 win in the opening round over Plymouth courtesy of a no-hit gem from ConVal Athletic Hall of Famer and 2007 Class I Player of the Year Ross Davis. They beat fourth seeded Lebanon in the quarterfinals on the road and then 10-run ruled No. 8 Bow in the semifinals. A 5-3 win over No. 2 Kennett, a team that included future Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke, in the Class I championship game earned ConVal its first state title since 1975.

“That team was really fun,” Marschok said. “But they knew what they wanted. The championship was in their sights.”

And while Marschok’s first campaign came with a storybook ending, the final season in his ConVal coaching career was nothing anyone could have envisioned. After the 2019 season, Marschok told himself he’d coach one more year, with the 2020 season set to be his 15th wearing the Cougar uniform.

“When I took the job I had 15 years in my head,” Marschok said. “So in my mind it was going to be my last year.”

They held winter workouts and Marschok was ready for that final grind of a high school baseball season. Then the coronavirus pandemic forced the spring sports season to be canceled and with it, the last hurrah for one of only two ConVal baseball coaches ever to win a state championship. It’s not exactly the way he wanted it to end, but Marschok is at peace with his decision. It’s his players who missed out on the 2020 season, for some of them it being their final one, that he feels for the most.

“I basically took it in stride. There’s not much you can do,” he said. “It was much worse on the kids.”

So for the first time in a decade and a half, when the season opens on April 14, Marschok won’t be calling pitches from the dugout or patrolling the third base coaching box on game days. Matt Harris has been named the new head coach for the upcoming season.

“I felt that was the perfect time to call it quits, so to say,” Marschok said. “It’s not that I couldn’t do it physically, but just felt there were other things in life to do.”

Over the course of his career, Marschok had 38 All-State players, including 15 on the first team and one Player of the Year. He also coached three ConVal valedictorians and a number of players who went on to compete in college. Overall, Marschok was 145-103, including the playoffs.

“It just speaks volumes of the kids that have come through the program,” he said.

Marschok looks back on his tenure with many fond memories. Of course there’s that first team that won a state title. The 2010 team had all the tools to make a title run, but fell in the semifinals to Portsmouth, who was in the midst of four straight state titles and a then national record 89-game winning streak.

“That was a championship style team as well, but Portsmouth, they were just in another league,” Marschok said.

Zach Hutton, a 2008 ConVal graduate, knew Marschok from little league and played on the 2006 championship team as a sophomore and quickly noticed a similarity to a local baseball coaching legend.

“He had pretty much the same philosophy as Bob Caswell did,” Hutton said. “What I remember the most about Mike as a coach is his energy and passion for the game.”

Hutton said it was easy for that title squad to buy into what Marschok expected.

“We really took to his coaching style,” Hutton said. “Mike definitely taught us how to think and react and that’s a testament to the structure. His expectations definitely rolled right into our own expectations in how we wanted to play.”

What Marschok is most proud of is the fact that ConVal was “always in the hunt.”

“We were very competitive all through the years. There were some great teams and some great players, and they all have a special meaning,” he said. “It was a good long run.”

Marschok loved the in-game competition, the adjustments, figuring out what opponents were trying to accomplish.

“The competition of a game, that’s what really drove me,” he said.

But the thing he always looked forward to the most was practice. It was where he could truly make an impact and teach the game. ConVal always worked on situational defense and took batting practice, with Marschok throwing BP every single day. And it was more than just learning the fundamentals of the game.

“It builds discipline, builds sportsmanship, camaraderie, there’s that whole piece to it,” Marschok said. “To get into the nitty gritty, it happened on the practice field.”

One of his favorite things to work on was the pick off, calling it a lost art.

“That really got us out of jams throughout the years,” Marschok said.

Hutton said practices were demanding and well planned to get the most out of the sessions.

“He always came to practice prepared. We spent a lot of time going over every situation you could think of,” Hutton said. “He expected effort and expected us to shift that effort over to game time.”

Casey Jordan, a 2020 graduate who began playing for Marschok as a freshman, said he got to know Marschok as a seventh-grader when the middle school team would take part in winter workouts with the high schoolers and immediately saw his future coach’s passion for the game.

“Being with him for so many years, I’ve seen that he puts every ounce of his life in to baseball,” Jordan said. He called Marschok the team’s loudest fan, vocal and outspoken. “It was nice to have somebody who really cared about the game, cared about the team.”

In Marschok’s early days, the ConVal field could be best described as funky. With no fence and the hill leading up to the JV soccer field, it was always interesting when a ball traveled deep into the outfield.

“We learned how to play it,” he said. “But when you hit it over the left fielder’s head, it was basically a homerun.”

He’ll remember the dedication of his players, doing homework on bus rides to and from away games, and always being willing to do what he asked of them. One of those players was Kyle Fisher, a 2010 graduate.

“Nothing comes easy, nothing is given, hard work, respect and maximum effort create success,” Fisher said of the lessons Marschok instilled.

Marschok’s father Louis coached football for many years in his New York hometown and he spent many days going to practice as a kid.

“I liked that whole atmosphere,” he said. He began coaching little league in Greenfield before his kids were even old enough to play. He went on to coach South Meadow School for two years, actually applying for the ConVal job for the 2005 season. He didn’t get it, but when it came up for the following season, Marschok was hired and was a constant in the program for the last 15 years.

“He was very much the kind of person who had been around the game a long time,” Jordan said. “He knew what he was doing teaching the game of baseball and is somebody that helped me throughout my high school baseball career.”

His second year on the job, Marschok coached his son Tyler.

“At that point in our lives, because I had coached him before, we learned to work together,” he said. “I’m really glad I had that opportunity.”

Right by his side all those years was assistant coach Scott Liljeberg.

“Scott and I worked really well together,” Marschok said, adding there was a balance to their coaching styles that stretched back to the days of little league.

He said there was definitely a learning curve making the jump to varsity high school baseball, but soon found a style that worked for both him and the players.

“Coach prepared his teams to be competitive and successful through hard work and effort,” Fisher said.

Hutton had a goal of playing college baseball and he said Marschok went above and beyond to give him every opportunity to do so.

“He knew I wanted to keep playing and was willing and proactive to create as many opportunities as he could for me to pursue that,” Hutton said. “But he wanted us all to succeed and improve, and play well as a team.”

 Hutton remembers team dinners that Marschok would host and it made a huge difference in building a team. The dedication to not only  winning, but creating a culture is what set him apart.

“He’s going to be a tough coach to follow,” Hutton said.


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