TUCSON, Ariz. (BVM) – Kelly Fowler said the first time Utah State’s softball staff laid eyes on her ace pitcher, they fell in love with her height.
“She’s probably 6-foot-1; she says she’s not, but I think she is. I’m 5-foot-10 and she towers me,” said Fowler, the head softball coach at Canyon Del Oro High School. “She’s 6 feet tall with long arms, and you always want a pitcher with long arms.”
Amya Legarra’s height is typically the first thing opponents notice when the senior walks onto the mound, and the next thing they notice is the amount of spin she’s able to put on the ball. The latter is why Fowler believes the Utah State commit’s best pitch is her rise ball, a pitch that can start low out of the strike zone and end up in the zone. An effective rise ball can often times fool a batter into mistaking it for a different pitch, giving the batter little to no time to react to the ball’s change in elevation.
The rise ball, and Legarra’s command of it, made the future Aggie a force through three seasons at Canyon Del Oro.
As a freshman, Legarra went 14-3 on the mound, struck out 108 batters and helped lead the Dorados to a 4A state championship. She lowered her ERA (1.70), struck out even more batters (136) and was named team MVP in her sophomore campaign before another all-conference season during her junior year.
Last November, she became the first signee of Utah State’s 2020 recruiting class. Legarra’s experience playing club softball with the Oro Valley Suncats and room for improvement makes her a promising piece of head coach Steve Johnson’s eighth recruiting class.
— USU Softball (@USUSoftball) November 13, 2019
“Amya is a very focused and well-rounded pitcher who has a lot of experience playing against some of the best travel ball competition in the country,” Johnson said when USU announced its 2020 signees. “She’s a tall, lanky, hard-throwing righty who mixes the ball up in the zone and east/west with different speeds. As she gets to work with our strength staff and coach (Laura) Heberling almost every day, we feel she has a very high ceiling she can reach for, can grow into a dominant pitcher and be a leader on our pitching staff.”
With the return of six seniors led by Legarra and a handful of young talent, Canyon Del Oro’s second state championship in four years was in play.
The Dorados began the season at 10-3, including an eight-game winning streak to begin March. Legarra began the season dealing, coming out of the gate 8-0 with three complete games.
“We had just a really solid team with defense, hitting and pitching,” Fowler said. “But the best thing we had going for us this year was team camaraderie. The kids really got along and our seniors really took the younger kids under their wing. They were the perfect role models.”
But no amount of senior leadership or wisdom from Fowler could prepare them for their new reality.
Fowler was setting up batting practice for a 4 p.m. game when members of the team began showing up with news that the Pac-12 canceled its softball season. Minutes later, March Madness was canceled and Fowler said she knew they were next. The news rocked the world of Fowler rocked Fowler’s world unlike anything she’s experienced in nearly 20 years.
The 60-year-old was a teacher during 9/11 and said the cancelation of just about everything, not just spring sports, gave her the same feeling as that day.
“I was like paralyzed,” Fowler said. “It was just an awful feeling because on 9/11, I had the kids with me in the classroom and then here, I’m out at the field with kids. It just felt so earth-shattering.”
It was a heartbreaking end to a promising season and the careers of a few athletes. Luckily for Legarra, who finished her high school career with exactly 400 strikeouts, she has collegiate softball to look ahead to.
Legarra plans to move to Logan, Utah this summer and will be majoring in human movement science in hopes of one day becoming a physical therapist. Before then, Legarra will showcase her golden arm for the Aggies, and Fowler isn’t worried one bit about the fit at USU for her ace.
“She’s definitely going to have to compete, but I don’t worry about that because she’s a competitor,” Fowler said. “She’s very coachable, so respectful, very talented, yeah, it’ll be a perfect fit for her.”