Not breaking stride: Spanish Fork pitcher Avery Sapp honored as 2022 Daily Herald Softball Player of the Year
The Spanish Fork softball team never seems to lack talent. It sees talented seniors graduate, only to have other excellent performers step up as part of the Don reloading process.
What can be harder to quantify, however, is how leadership voids will be filled.
Spanish Fork saw four strong leaders depart from the 2021 squad that went 32-1 and won the 5A title. Looking at the early results in 2022, it would be understandable to wonder how much their leadership was missed as the Dons began the year 4-3.
Spanish Fork junior pitcher Avery Sapp came in as a dominating presence in the circle as well as a dangerous batter, but knew she needed to do more for her team.
“Sometimes when you don’t see people trying to get everyone on the same, you have to do it,” Sapp said in a phone interview earlier this week. “I like to see everyone like working together as a team during the games, getting each other up in the game and making sure everyone’s focused. I like to get everyone and make sure they’re paying attention. That’s mainly what I did. I just would make sure they were cheering, make sure they were ready for the next game coming up and having a positive mindset.”
Don head coach Natalie Jarvis said she saw Sapp increase her efforts in that aspect of the game and that it made a big difference.
“She was stronger, more confident in herself, more of a leader,” Jarvis said. “She did her job last year but this year she had to step up. I think Avery knew that she and (senior catcher Ashlynn Losee) really had to lead the team this year.”
Jarvis said Sapp was always a leader by example who put in the work to be excellent at her craft, but wasn’t always the most vocal.
“That’s the type of leader she was,” Jarvis said. “But this year — and I saw it most at BYU during the finals — every time she got a hit and she would come back to the dugout, she would just scream ‘let’s go!’ so loud. It was so motivating to her teammates to see quiet Avery just screaming and being so passionate. It was was exciting to see that part of her and a different side of her leadership.”
Combine her incredible softball abilities with that ability to motivate her team and it is clear why Sapp earned the distinction of the being the 2022 Daily Herald Softball Player of the Year.
“I’m very blessed by the honor but I like to turn it back to the team because I wouldn’t be where I am without them,” Sapp said. “They contribute to my success a lot and are always backing me up.”
Jarvis said when describing her gifted pitcher that she always shows tremendous grit.
“She doesn’t let hits or what an umpire is calling every shake her,” Jarvis said. “There were games where someone would get a big home run, but she was like, ‘I got this.’ She always had that mentality.”
Jarvis recalled a game during the year when one of the opposing batters had hit a couple of home runs, so when she was coming up down the stretch of a close game, Jarvis went out to talk to Sapp.
“I asked if we should put her on and Avery said, ‘No, I’m going right at her,'” Jarvis said. “And she struck her out. She didn’t want to take the easy route. I love that about her.”
Sapp said she was confident in that moment because she knew what mistakes she had made.
“I threw a rise ball inside and she yanked it out of the park, then I threw one outside and she was able to hit it to the right side,” Sapp said. “I knew I had to switch up my game plan. I threw what I thought she wouldn’t be able to make contact with and it worked.”
That was a classic example of the focus that Sapp believes is her biggest strength when it comes to softball.
“I’m able to have tunnel vision where it is all in my head,” Sapp said. “It’s about the mental game and knowing what is going on. As soon as I step in to pitch, I’m staring at the catcher’s mitt imagining what pitch is going to be thrown and what pitch will be thrown next.”
Sapp said that while winning another championship was incredibly rewarding, her favorite memories from 2022 were being with her teammates.
“We usually stay up and sleep in the tower at the softball field,” Sapp said. “We played wiffle ball in the parking lot and games, and it was a really good bonding experience for the team. After that night, we had a lot more friendships and knew more about each other. I think that is really important.”
Sapp is verbally committed to play for UVU but will get one more season as a Don before making that transition.
As she prepares for her senior year, Sapp wants to get stronger as well as make sure she is throwing legal pitches more consistently.
“If I get more mature in the game, I think I’ll do a lot better,” Sapp said. “I always push myself to be better, so next year is just another step up from where I was this year.”
Jarvis said it’s great as a coach to know she has Sapp coming back for another season.
“I think next year we should be as good or better than we were this year,” Jarvis said. “There are some big holes to fill, particularly at catcher, but I think no matter who is behind the plate Avery will trust them and be just fine. I think she is going to lead and carry the team even further.”