When she was 12 years old, Spanish Fork’s Avery Sapp remembers thinking, “I’m going to college for shortstop.”

It was not a farfetched notion either. She was blessed with athleticism, was one of the best players in her age group and playing in one of the softball hotbeds of Utah — the south end of Utah County.

That trajectory still might’ve played out exactly how she envisioned, but everything changed when she started pitching the ball instead of just fielding grounders. It was fun and she was good at it.

High school softball: Deseret News 2023 Players of the Year were aces and potent in the batter’s box
High school softball: Deseret News 2023 6A All-State team
High school softball: Deseret News 2023 5A All-State team
High school softball: Deseret News 2023 4A All-State team
High school softball: Deseret News 2023 3A All-State team
High school softball: Deseret News 2023 2A All-State team

As she started putting in more and more work in the circle, she eventually became great at. This fall she’ll be heading to UVU to be a college pitcher instead of a college shortstop, and she can’t wait to get to work.

As she embarks on the next chapter in her softball career, Sapp leaves behind a remarkable high school legacy that is capped by being named the Deseret News Ms. Softball recipient this season.

“She wants to compete, she wants to be out there. She has an air about her, she knows one speed and that’s full speed,” said Spanish Fork coach Natalie Jarvis about her three-year ace. “She was always a good athlete, absolutely a great athlete, but as a leader she blossomed this past year. She took on that role more as a leader and everybody followed her.”

This past season she struck out 206 batters and finished with a 2.22 ERA in leading Spanish Fork to a third-straight 5A state championship. She was also a lethal weapon at the plate as she smacked 11 home runs and drove in 50 runs while also batting .464.

With as dominant as Sapp and her teammates were, only 13 of Spanish Fork’s 30 games this season went the full seven innings. Most of Sapp’s favorite games were the ones that did go the full seven, including the tense state championship series with Bountiful.

“For me, I like to have competition, I love to have tough games. Even in the championship with the first game when it was 1-0, you really have to lock in and lock in your mental, and that’s my favorite part. Because you have to really push yourself,” said Sapp.

That strong mental approach didn’t always come naturally for Sapp though.

Past Deseret News Ms. Softball winners

2022 — Kaysen Korth, Riverton

2021Chloe Borges, Riverton

2019 — Huntyr Ava, West

2018 — Kapri Toone, Bear River

2017 — Cambrie Hazel, Spanish Fork

2016 — Breah Ava, West

2015 — Kimbri Herring, Stansbury

2014 — Janessa Bassett, Stansbury

2013 — Tatiana Su’e Su’e, San Juan

2012 — Jordan Theurer, Bear River

2011 — MaCauley Flint, Roy

2010 — Tori Almond, Bingham

2009 — Shelbi Tyteca, Viewmont

2008 — Tori Almond, Bingham

When she was younger, she was the one throwing her glove and getting mad at herself when games weren’t going her way. As she got a bit older, she started being more receptive to advice of her dad, who was often coaching her teams, and it helped flip a switch.

“As I got older me and him kind of bonded a bit more and then he started telling me that the most important part of the game is your mental side. You have to stay solid, you have to stay on top. What’s in your head will play out in the field,” said Sapp.

What played out over the past three years on the high school diamonds is a career that’s one of the best in the state record books. With her 206 strikeouts this season and 21-2 record, she finished her career with 660 strikeouts and a 63-6 record.

Her 660 career strikeouts ranks seventh in the state record book and her wins ranks fifth. The caveat of it all is COVID-19 wiped out all but two games of her freshman season.

She didn’t pitch either of those first two games, but she started in the field and went a combined 4 for 8 in those games. Coach Jarvis said she absolutely was planning on pitching Sapp that season, and we’ll never how prominently she would’ve featured in the circle.

All she would’ve needed was 93 strikeouts and eight wins to vault into second place in the all-time record books. With 167 strikeouts and 12 wins, she’d be the all-time leader.

Regardless of what the record books show, her consistency year after year put her right there with the all-time greats.

“She has just a strong presence about her. When she comes to practice, when she comes to games she has this presence of leadership about her, and I think that speaks volumes to the type of kid she is, the type of athlete, the type of leader she was,” said Jarvis.

She’s heading to UVU with four pitches in her arsenal — fastball, rise ball, curveball and change-up. She averages about 62 mph, and has topped out at about 65.

UVU head coach Cody Thomson, who is heading into his second season at UVU after serving as an assistant at the University of Utah since 2005, has informed Sapp she has the potential to start as a true freshman in the circle next spring.

“But that’s based on what I do this summer. I have to start working out more, I have to go and do lessons, I really have to put in the work this summer,” said Sapp, who is currently in Kansas with her club team participating in a big tournament, one of several this summer.

With the same mental approach she displayed in her final two games in a Spanish Fork uniform, success should surely follow. In Game 1 of the championship series against Bountiful at BYU, Sapp dominated with 12 strikeouts. A day later, and admittedly much more tired pitching her fifth game in three days, Sapp only struck out five but she repeatedly made the clutch pitches when she needed to until Spanish Fork’s bats came alive to clinch the 3-peat.

Now she’s swapping her Spanish Fork red for UVU green and the sky’s the limit on her potential.