Marika Lyszczyk made NCAA history, now she looks to make the most of her opportunity at Sonoma State University

Sonoma State baseball’s Marika Lyszczyk was the first Canadian woman to play NCAA baseball, and the first woman to play catcher in any NCAA division.|

Growing up in a small Canadian town just south of Vancouver, 11-year-old Marika Lyszczyk played both softball and male-dominated baseball, often having to juggle conflicting schedules.

“It was so difficult, especially with softball,” Lyszczyk said. “They had tournaments on the weekends, so I would play two games, then go straight to a baseball game, and it was really hard to do both.”

Finally, her softball coach told her to make a decision: baseball or softball.

He assumed Lyszczyk would choose softball, but she threw him a curve.

“I loved baseball, and I was a little bit better at it,” she said. “I was like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to play baseball,’ not thinking of anywhere it would take me today.”

It was a decision that changed her life, and one that made history.

While at a small college in New Hampshire, she became the first Canadian woman to play NCAA baseball, and the first woman ever to play her position — catcher — in any NCAA division.

Now 22, she has brought her skills to Sonoma State, where she is a first-semester junior and one of the Seawolves’ pitchers.

On the grind

Originally at shortstop/second base, she made a spontaneous decision to switch to catcher in eighth grade.

“I sucked at it,” Lyszczyk admitted. “I would close my eyes; I was just not a good catcher.”

She played the equivalent of club baseball in Canada, which required team members to pay to participate.

“So I paid at the bare minimum level because I wanted to catch, and I dropped everything to learn this position,” she said.

Her dedication earned her a spot with the Whalley Chiefs, a member of the British Columbia Premier Baseball League. The Chiefs told Lyszczyk they would try her out on a probationary basis. If she passed, she would be able to catch.

Lyszczyk passed with flying colors and ended up playing for the Chiefs for the next five years.

In 2019, Lyszczyk was invited to participate in the inaugural MLB Grit Invitational, a showcase geared toward girls who play high school baseball.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” Lyszczyk said. “I literally just thought I was going to catch and have some fun, and play with a whole bunch of girls from Puerto Rico, Canada and the U.S.”

But on the last day, invitational organizer Elizabeth Benn (who now works for the New York Mets as director of major league operations) approached Lyszczyk and told her there was a scout who would be watching her at the game.

The scout pulled Lyszczyk aside and asked her if she wanted to play college baseball, and told her that he wanted her as a catcher.

“People had always told me that if I ever were to play in college it would have to be as a pitcher, because no (woman) had ever caught before,” Lyszczyk said.

That conversation brought her to the first stop on her NCAA journey, Rivier University in New Hampshire.

Another switch

Following her first season as a Raider, Lyszczyk learned that she needed rotator cuff surgery while playing for New York’s Sag Harbor Whalers of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.

Last year, she was only able to come back for the last two weeks of the season, and even then, her coaches deemed it too early to catch. So instead, she pitched.

“I pitched one inning, got a 0.00 ERA there,” she recalled with a huge smile on her face.

From there, it was a second season of summer ball with the Whalers, where she accumulated a 4.21 ERA in her first full season on the mound. This summer, Lyszczyk is set to be the first woman to play in the Futures League, for the Brockton Rox in Massachusetts.

For Lyszczyk, there’s more to life than playing baseball. Sometimes she reports about it too. Always active posting her achievements and skills on social media, she was able to parlay her online presence into a job as a content creator for Major League Baseball.

That has allowed her to travel all over the country; most recently she headed down to the World Baseball Classic. She has been to the World Series, the All-Star Game and has a dream of being a sideline reporter.

And that, in turn, played a role in helping her reach the next level as a player.

East to west

While Lyszczyk enjoyed her time at Rivier, she wanted more.

“I started the whole recruitment process all over again, which was so difficult,” the right-hander said. “The transfer portal was just full, I was a female, and I had just had rotator cuff surgery. I didn’t know if I was going to go anywhere.”

Enter Sonoma State.

While talking with Seawolves baseball Manager John Goelz over the phone as she was working in the Bay Area, they realized they would both be at a Giants game later that night. So, surrounded by thousands of fans at Oracle Park, Lyszczyk let Goelz know she wanted to play for him.

“I told her how much I admired her for wanting to play baseball,” Goelz said. “There’s so many obstacles for her to do that … but she’s really bright and really positive.”

Still recovering from surgery, Lyszczyk certainly had to earn it in Rohnert Park. With 65-70 players trying out in the fall, she survived the first and then second rounds of cuts, and most recently has been added to the travel roster.

“They said, ‘We’ll give you the opportunity, and what you do with it is up to you,’” Lyszczyk said.


Not everyone appreciates her pioneering spirit. Her videos are often subject to hate in the comments from people who just don’t want to see a female playing baseball, Lyszczyk said.

“I’m used to it now where it really doesn’t bother me,” Lyszczyk said. “I also just tend to not look. It really bothers my mom, though.

“If someone comments on my content, I try to use it as a positive,” she continued. “If someone truly didn’t care, they wouldn’t comment that. I also think people can learn from it.”

The comments aren’t the worst she’s experienced. She once had to drop out of a baseball academy in high school after an older player shoved her into a fence and spit on her.


As for being a trailblazer in a male-dominated sport, Lyszczyk said she feels a kinship with the late baseball legend Jackie Robinson, who is recognized as the first Black to play Major League Baseball.

“I feel like my role model is Jackie,” Lyszczyk said. “That’s really far back there, but I was in love with the movie ‘42.’ There isn’t a lot of people I had to follow before me, so I feel like we did something similar, although his was ethnicity and mine was gender. I really look up to what he did in changing the game of baseball.”

Now on the other side of the fence, where people are looking up to her, she has simple yet powerful advice.

“Never take no for an answer,” she said. “Follow your dreams. There are 7-8 billion people in this world, and it only takes one to say yes.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kienan O’Doherty at 415-887-8650 or On Twitter @kodoherty22.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:
  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.