St. Lukes‘ Ruschil sisters have bond beyond the game
Published 12:07 pm, Wednesday, June 24, 2015
The catcher flipped back her mask and trotted out to the mound. To this point, St. Luke’s had held the visitors, rival King Low Heywood Thomas School, at bay in the FAA Softball semifinal. But freshman backstop and Katonah, NY native Noelle Ruschil wanted to share a scouting report with Marissa, her senior pitcher—and older sister.
Marissa, a WNEPSA-all star, rebuffed her backstop, preferring a high-and-away fastball. "Low, outside," Noelle repeated. "’I don’t want to throw that right now," Marissa now recalls telling her sister. But Noelle insisted. "You have to throw it!’"
It wasn’t until after the game that Marissa learned that Noelle had scoured YouTube for videos of the batter at the plate. The freshman catcher’s film study revealed that King’s best hitter was vulnerable on the outer half.
Marissa followed her sister’s advice, windmilling a late-moving fastball. The batter swung and missed for one of Ruschil’s eleven strikeouts. The sisters were on their way: Marissa completed a no-hitter to send St. Luke’s to the title game. Noelle and Marissa went a combined 5-for-7 at the plate and drove in five.
Two days later, St. Luke’s edged the School of the Holy Child in dramatic fashion, 2-1, to capture the Fairchester title. Within the week, the Storm rolled by Christian Heritage and Cheshire Academy to win the Western New England championship. The Storm’s third FAA title in four years and second Western New England crown in three provided a fitting end to a dominant season (13-2) that concluded on an 11-game winning streak.
Marissa toed the rubber four times in that seven-day span, striking out 35 while allowing only two earned runs. Noelle hit .583 in the post-season and drove in three. (Only adding to the friendly sibling rivalry, Marissa batted .600 and drove in four).
But the conversation ultimately returns to that conference on the mound. The sisters see it as a broader portrait of their tight-knit relationship.
"I’ll be on the mound," Marissa explains, "and [Noelle] will start smiling and giggling at me. So I know there’s something happening there. Or she’ll say, ‘you missed your spot, that’s why she hit the ball!’ So she’s kind of in control of me."
"Yeah," Noelle agrees, before her straight face melts into laughter. "We just want to make each other look good," she continues. "We’re not afraid to correct each other, either," Marissa adds, "we live together, so we have to deal with it," she says, joining in the laughter.
But the taste of victory does not mask certain bittersweet undertones. Marissa will pitch from the collegiate rubber next season. Noelle, whose twin brother Evan is also a multi-sport athlete at St. Luke’s, will try to return St. Luke’s softball (and in the fall, soccer) to the top of a competitive league. "It’s going to be hard not having her there," Noelle says of her now-graduated sister. "I know that she’s like a pro, basically." (Marissa laughs this off). "I’ll miss her insight," Noelle continues, "because I can always go to her for questions."
Marissa notes that this past season was the first in which the sisters were true teammates. When convincing Noelle to attend St. Luke’s this year, she purposely dangled the softball carrot. "I had no idea what it was going to be like [playing with Noelle]. It was a lot of fun." Her collegiate career looms large, but also means breaking up a duo that led the team in batting average, RBI, OPS—and cheerful camaraderie. "I’m excited to start something new, but it’s really sad leaving here," she says.
Still, the drumbeat of softball goes on. Noelle will play over the summer for the USA Lady Hawks, a college showcase team. Marissa will keep in shape and play in trophy tournaments. She is sure to relish the break—when not in season, she and Noelle have played year-round, even during varsity soccer (Noelle) and volleyball (Marissa) campaigns. Despite the rigorous schedule, Marissa returns to an unyielding constant when asked what she loves most about the sport. "The whole environment of it - it feels like a second family."
Beyond the championships and individual accolades, the sisters will remember this season as the one where their immediate family became indistinguishable from their second.