The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.
Ava Schaffel isn’t the type to wait around. She hit Moore League Softball like a tour de force as a sophomore last spring, throwing a no-hitter against Wilson on her way to earning Moore League Pitcher of the Year honors.
Before the start of her junior season, Schaffel isn’t waiting around to make her college decision, either. The standout pitcher announced that she’ll be heading to San Diego State to play her college softball.
“They were actually my first visit, and as soon as I got to campus it was just amazing,” said Schaffel. “The college town and everything is so great and the coaches are just amazing, the facilities are amazing; San Diego is just everything I wanted and more.”
Schaffel said she’s excited to join a program she feels is headed in the right direction under head coach Stacey Nuveman Deniz, who led the Aztecs to a 39-16 record and a Mountain West title in her first season as head coach in 2022.
“I know (the program) is on an uprise and I feel like over the next couple of years, they’re just going to grow and become something really big,” Schaffel said.
Schaffel also took visits to Arizona State and Iowa, but says she’s solid with her decision and won’t need to explore her options further. She admitted that the recruiting process was a stressful one, and she’s excited to have the decision behind her and to just focus on getting better in the circle.
Millikan head coach Michelle Lehr acknowledged the stress that comes with the recruitment process, and is excited to see what her star pitcher can accomplish the next two years with this decision out of the way.
“The opportunity for her not to stress anymore about the recruitment process is going to be huge. I know this fall was stressful for her,” said Lehr. “I think that Ava committing is going to be huge for us for the spring, not having the pressure and knowing that she can focus on one thing now, and that's producing for her team.”
Schaffel will be a key weapon on a deep and talented Millikan roster. Standing at 6-foot makes her an imposing challenge for hitters, but Lehr points out that there’s also plenty of skill to her game.
“I think number one, she's blessed with size to compete at a high level, but she has really good spin,” said Lehr of Schaffel. “I think that's really what separates her from other pitchers is that naturally, she just spins the ball well. So if you add that with a lot of hard work and dedication, she has the ability to dominate even at a high level.”
Schaffel’s commitment isn’t the first for this Millikan squad, and it won’t be the last. The two-time defending Moore League champions have the vast majority of the roster intact from last season, when they reached the CIF championship game.
In addition to Schaffel, infielders Arianna Ramirez (Southern Utah), Madison “Shorty” Wright (Arkansas Tech), and Katie Knarr (Rhode Island) have already made their college commitments. Pitcher Victoria Byrum, shortstop Emily Hanniff and outfielder Erica Estrada have also gotten plenty of attention on the recruiting trail and hope to make their college decisions in the year ahead. Schaffel says it’s great having so many college level athletes on the team to rely on.
“It's really nice, especially because a lot of the girls are older, like the seniors that have already been on visits and gone through this process,” Schaffel explained. “It's just been really nice to go to them. And whether committed or not, everyone at Millikan is amazing. They’re all so good, committed or not.”