SOFTBALL: Sophomore pitcher Avii is back for more

Palomar pitcher Samantha Avii finished pitching the final innings of game 2 against College of the Canyons on March 3, 2012. Deb Hellman/Telescope

Palomar pitcher Samantha Avii said that her high school softball experience was so bad that she wanted to quit playing.

So she did, taking a year off right out of high school. But the love of the game brought her back, and she has found her place as one of the leaders of Palomar’s 2012 squad.

An exodus of 2011’s sophomore players, plus a strong recruiting season, leaves Avii as a one of four sophomores on a team full of freshman.

“She is a competitive ball player that always has her game face on,” softball manager Lacey Craft said through email. “She is very serious during games and likes to compete; her teammates recognize that in her.”

Avii has been playing softball and pitching since the age of 4. Her older sister, Jamee, also played at Palomar and was one of Avii’s biggest influences as she pursued the game.

“It was a sister rivalry kind of thing,” Avii said. “She was an amazing player. I wanted to be exactly like her. She was just really good, plus she had natural talent.”

In 2005, her freshman year at Palomar, Jamee had a batting average of .664. She also won the CCCFCA Most Valuable Player award and was named the Player of the Year for the All-Pacific Coast Conference Team. In that season, Palomar’s softball team went 35-4 overall, 15-0 in conference.

“My dad always kind of compared us,” Avii said. “He wasn’t doing it to say ‘she’s better than you,’ he was saying it to push me to work harder. I didn’t understand that until college.”

Avii’s experience at Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach was very negative. She didn’t play freshman year, but made varsity in her sophomore year. She said that the school wasn’t very big on athletics and that her teammates and coaches didn’t really care about doing well. That negative attitude rubbed off on her.

“High school made me hate softball,” Avii said.

In the gap year, Avii didn’t even train. She was completely done with softball. Or so she thought. But then she started missing it, enough to be ready to start playing again.

“It was hard for me to get back into it, because I didn’t do anything for that whole year,” Avii said.

Used to the apathy of her high school team and struggling to get back into softball, Avii found it hard to put forth effort with her new team.

“When I first came here I wasn’t starting, so I didn’t really care,” Avii said. “My dad kind of talked me into caring. I started staying after practice and doing my own thing to get better.”

Things didn’t go the way she had planned as she made her comeback though. Her sister Jamee was offered a scholarship out of Palomar to Arizona State University, which she turned down because of commitments to work. But Jamee still had a year of playing time left, so when Samantha was ready to play again, they decided to go to Palomar and play together. In the end, Jamee didn’t go to Palomar, leaving Samantha there by herself.

In her first season with Palomar, she had a record of 4-3, and an ERA of 3.28. She pitched 59.2 innings and allowed 34 runs.

The 2011 team had a record of 24-10 in the regular season, 13-2 in conference play. That year, the team made it to the Southern California Community College playoffs, and defeated Long Beach CC in three games. The team then moved on to the Mt. SAC Super Regional, where they were eliminated by Cerritos College in the third game.

“It was nice because the team actually cared and showed effort,” Avii said. “It was nice to have that again.”

As of April 1, Avii had a record of 5-2 on the season.

“I feel like our defense is really strong when she’s pitching,” sophomore teammate Katie Wilford said. “She helps a lot.”

Craft said that she foresees Avii being able to have more command on her pitching as the season goes on.

“She is learning to trust her spins and let the ball do some of the work,” Craft said. “She has matured a lot over the last season.”

Avii still lives in Imperial Beach and makes the hour-long drive to Palomar every day. Her daily schedule includes going to the gym, class and practice while trying to keep up with her 20.5 units.

“I respect that she makes a sacrifice to play for us because she wants to get the most out of her experience,” Craft said.

Avii also works as a cashier at the gift shop at SeaWorld. She can only work weekends because of her schedule. She said that if she ever has any spare time, it’s spent doing homework or sleeping.

“It’s so tiring,” she said.

Avii plans to graduate in the spring and pursue a career in criminal justice so she can be a homicide detective.

“I want to be the first woman in my family to get a degree,” Avii said. “That’s what’s keeping me in school.”

She said she’s hoping to go to any school in California that will give her a good offer. Though she is having some trouble with her knee, she hopes that she will be able to continue to play softball at the next level.

“She has already caught the eye of a couple colleges that want her to play for them next season,” Craft said.

“I actually love this program because the coaches are so great,” Avii said. “If I had gone to a four-year school I don’t think the coaches would have been as great. They really take the time and care.”

Author: Kaity Bergquist

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