Centennial softball's accidental ace takes to pitching


Most ace pitchers at good softball programs in Arizona are lined up in advance.

But in 2022, a Centennial program only three years removed from a finals trip had an opening in the circle. Not only did junior Samantha Jarvis fill the vacancy, she pitched all but 10 innings the Coyotes played, finishing the season with an 18-7 record and a 3.08 ERA.

“Sammy was kind of an off-and-on pitcher, but when Ella (Cordova) was in and out with some sicknesses and COVID was really tough on her, Sammy kind of started taking it a little bit more serious. She knew we were going to need her and took that challenge on. She had a pretty good year last year,” Centennial coach Randy Kaye said.

Sophomore Riley Moncrieff has picked up more of the innings load and Jarvis’ ERA is higher so far, partially because the Coyotes played defending champion Willow Canyon twice instead of once.

But she thinks of herself as a pitcher now.

“I kind of felt like I could do a couple positions, not just mainly pitching. But as the season went on, I felt more of a connection to pitching,” Jarvis said “It became a little less stressful and I could get more comfortable with people around me. I could count on my teammates because they’re used to me and I’m used to them.”

She grew up in Texas and quickly caught on to the state sport/religion. But Jarvis quickly took to softball and started playing club ball in sixth or seventh grade.

“My favorite sport is actually football, coming from Texas and everything. But softball is my favorite sport to play, by all means,” Jarvis said.

By then her family had moved to Arizona. As a freshman in 2019-20 she joined the Coyotes as they looked to return to the 5A final.

Who knows where it would have went, as the first wave of COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the 2020 season.

“It was a little bit stressful coming out because it was a high level of play and very fast-paced. I feel like that helped build a really good environment around everybody on the team,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis mostly played first base as a sophomore and became closer with teammates. Then-senior Meghan Golden was the Coyotes ace.

Jarvis and Cordova both gave Golden a bit of a breather that season, but as Kaye mentioned, Cordova has not pitched since.

Last year she led Centennial to the No. 4 seed in 5A but wore out because of heavy innings last year. Jarvis pitched some on a summer club team previously, but never this much.

“She’s getting the ball every day. In all 25 games last year she pitched for us. It says a lot about her and her commitment to her teammates,” Kaye said.

By then Division II Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia was well into its pursuit of Jarvis.

She went out east for tournaments in the summer of 2021. Jarvis said she liked meeting the school’s friendly coaches and connected with them.

She signed as this school year was beginning and said it is a lot easier for her to enjoy her senior season.

“It’s really, really green. It’s a very friendly area in a small town that I fell in love with,” Jarvis said.

Centennial started the season 12-7 and Kaye believes the team and its ace are capable of playing at another level.

“There’s more in there too. I got to get her to turn that next corner to where she’s a little more offensive and going after people instead of just doing enough to what’s required. Just be the dominant person on the field,” Kaye said.

Jarvis said she wants to study nursing at Davis & Elkins.

First though, she and fellow seniors Lauren Carbajal, Ella Kirkeby, Alyssa Munoz, Grace Tuiteleleapaga and Sierra Walding want to keep this program up among 5A’s best.

“We want to be remembered as a team that’s always there for each other, win or lose. We want to have a tight bond,” Jarvis said. “You don’t have to be vocal. If you show people the right way to go, they’ll follow by example.”

Kaye said this group has done just that.

“They’ve put their stamp on it in terms of keeping up competitive and keeping Centennial softball relevant,” Kaye said.