Amanda Roark’s junior season in softball didn’t go anything like she had planned.
Injuries took away some of the speed in the Tech pitcher’s fastball, and her team’s inability to hit caused the Roadrunners to fall out of playoff contention quickly.
Now fully recovered from stress fractures in her leg and another year wiser, Roark is ready to lead her team to its goal — a berth in the Sunrise Region tournament.
“I’m excited. I think this will be our best year,” Roark said. “It’s the best team we’ve had, and I think we can get to playoffs this year.”
Roark was amazing as a sophomore, striking out 299 batters in 174 2/3 innings while posting a 1.28 ERA, but a shaky defense sabotaged the Roadrunners, and Roark finished 12-15.
Trying to pitch through the injuries last year, Roark still fanned 188 in 159 innings, but her ERA jumped to 2.51, though she finished 13-15.
“I’m healthy now,” Roark said. “I’m back to normal. I didn’t feel like I pitched as good last year.”
Still, the Roadrunners needed and still need Roark in the circle to have any chance to be competitive. In fact, it might be hard to find a player more valuable to her team than Roark is to Tech.
“When she’s pitching, it’s huge because we know we’re going to be in every game,” Tech coach Todd Herrick said. “It all starts from the mound, and it was real evident last year in the games she didn’t play.”
Roark sat out four games to try to let her injuries heal. The Roadrunners were 1-3 in those games, winning the lone game against a Palo Verde team comprised mostly of junior varsity players. The three losses were by a combined score of 43-2.
Roark, who has committed to play at Montana State Billings, started pitching at age 5 and began take lessons consistently three years later. She fell in love with the position almost immediately.
“Pitchers are the center of attention,” Roark said. “They’re always doing something. When I was little, I played shortstop, and I felt like I wasn’t in the game. But when I pitch, I’m involved in everything — every pitch, every second of the game.”
Through her work over the years with pitching coaches Sharon Nichols and former UNLV standout and Olympic champion Lori Harrigan, Roark has developed a strong repertoire of pitches, though she claims her riseball is her best.
But that’s only part of what makes her good.
“She’s probably the most competitive player I’ve had in any sport I’ve coached,” Herrick said. “She likes to have fun, but she likes to win. She’s one of those people that I don’t really have to say much to.
“She’s just got that drive. Even on good days, she’s still kicking herself about the one error that was made or the one hit she gave up. She’s a perfectionist.”
Roark also doesn’t like not being on the field. She’s pitched in as many as seven games in a day in offseason tournaments.
“If she doesn’t have the ball, I’m hearing about it,” Herrick said. “She never seems to get tired. If we have three games in a day in a tournament, she wants the ball every game.”
That’s a good thing for the Roadrunners, who also are hoping to be improved offensively and defensively.
“We just can’t afford a recurrence” of the injury, Herrick said. “We’ve got nine players coming back, and they were all starters at some point. They’re all a year older. If we stay healthy, I think we can get to the playoffs.”