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Arizona softball commit Aissa Silva returns home to be a Wildcat

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2023 Arizona commit Aissa Silva
Photo courtesy of Aissa Silva

Aissa Silva may have made her name as a pitcher in California, but she’s always been an Arizona girl. When it came time to decide on a college, returning to Southern Arizona and becoming a Wildcat had been her goal for years. In just a few weeks, she will sign her name to her letter of intent and make it official.

“I grew up here,” Silva said, who is Extra Inning Softball’s No. 8 pitcher and No. 9 overall player in 2023. “And I’ve always gone to the games when I was little. I grew up getting the opportunity to work with [former Arizona pitchers] Danielle O’Toole and Taylor McQuillin. So I’ve kind of just always been around that atmosphere and it’s just been my dream school ever since I was little.”

One of the things that makes Arizona her dream school is the group of dedicated, diehard fans that fill Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium year in and year out. Silva said that seeing the same fans in the stands supporting the team every year has always made Hillenbrand special. The fans don’t come and go. They are committed to the program.

“I feel like when you go to other colleges, you see a lot of people there but you don’t see a lot of the same faces,” she said. “It’s always new people, which is great, but I like being able to see the same people. They’re so interactive with us. They support us through the whole way and they are there no matter what. So it’s like, you know, if I see them around, like they’re like, ‘Oh, my god! Hey!’ Just being able to talk to them. I think it’s really cool.”

That same energy comes from the coaching staff, and it’s not just from the coaches who played their college ball in Arizona uniforms. Former Stanford star and current Arizona assistant Lauren Lappin made a huge impression on Silva.

“Lap is a very fun and very energetic person and she’ll get you going, which I really enjoy,” Silva said.

The future Wildcat also liked the way the coaching staff led Arizona through a difficult season last year and fought their way to the Women’s College World Series.

“It really showed me that they weren’t just gonna give up,” Silva said.

Silva was born in Sierra Vista and moved to Tucson at a young age. The family moved to the Sacramento area when she was in middle school, but they recently returned to Tucson for her senior year of high school.

It’s a move that some other Wildcats have made prior to their final year of high school. Allie Skaggs returned to her parents’ hometown and her own birthplace as a senior in high school because her family had always planned to move back to Tucson. Devyn Netz and her family moved a year early when her older brother Dawson was a freshman pitcher on the Arizona baseball team. Silva’s reasons were a little different.

“Just to kind of get used to Tucson again and kind of just feel it out,” Silva said. “Honestly, it’s home here, so I would rather finish my senior year at home.”

Silva is attending Mountain View on the city’s northwest side and will suit up for the Mountain Lions this spring for her final season of high school softball. She’s already getting reacclimated to the Sonoran desert.

It meant a lot of changes. She left her high school friends back in the Sacramento area. With the help of a softball fan and a school program, she has settled into life at Mountain View.

“At the beginning, it was a little hard,” Silva said. “I’m not the most outgoing person there is. So I’m definitely not the person that’s gonna go up to somebody and just start talking to them. So it was a little rough at the beginning. But we have a thing called Summit and it’s kind of a free period to just study and get any work you need to get done, and I have my English teacher for that. He is super big on softball, so I always talked to him.”

Softball helped in other ways, too. Silva had a classmate in her study hall that she used to play softball against. Making connections with her former opponent helped her connect to a wider circle.

“I actually have friends which is always nice,” Silva said with a laugh. “I’m not just walking alone.”

She has also changed travel teams. Because of the difficulty in getting to Los Angeles for travel ball, she no longer plays for SoCal Athletics-Richardson. She now plays for the Arizona Thunderbolts coached by Chris Walding. Silva played for the organization when she was younger, so she’s happy to return to something familiar.

She is being reintroduced to the Arizona desert in ways that more directly affect her softball, too. When people talk about pitching in the desert, one of the first things that comes to mind is the idea that the ball flies out of the park more easily in the thin, dry desert air, but Silva isn’t phased by that. She said that she didn’t realize it did until recently when someone told her about the desert air’s effects on the ball.

“If the ball is gonna get hit, it’s gonna get hit anywhere,” she said. “You could say it’s gonna fly anywhere. So it just kind of pushes me to throw it harder and not leave it down the middle so they can hit it far.”

The heat of the desert has caused her a few more problems.

“In California, I always wore sleeves under my uniform or a compression shirt, if you want to call it that,” Silva said. “I got here again and I was like, ‘Man!’ I thought I would be used to it and be able to wear sleeves, and I had my first tournament in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago and oh, Lord, I had to take that thing off. I was sweating like no other. It is not the same.”

Silva has been playing in tournaments in Phoenix for the past few weeks. Before long, she will start her final high school season.

In her three years at Elk Grove High, she had a minuscule ERA of 0.56. She struck out 552 batters in 310.2 innings pitched and went 35-9. In her final season in California, she set the Elk Grove single-season record by striking out 320 batters, blowing by the previous record of 269.

Her goals for her senior season with the Mountain Lions aren’t much different. She would like to pick up some velocity, but strikeouts are never far from her mind.

“Last year I was honored with breaking the record of most strikeouts in a season,” Silva said. “I’d love to do that again here.”

Whether she sets records or not, she wants to stay aggressive. That is part of what defines her as a pitcher.

“I definitely would describe myself as super competitive on the mound,” Silva said. “I definitely think I am very tough on myself, but I try my best not to show it...I just love to attack the batters. I feel like I’m pretty good at reading a batter and where they’re set up, so I want to make sure that I can find the batter’s weakness and go against it.”

Before all that, Silva has signing day. The early signing period starts on Nov. 9. It will be the culmination of all the work she has put into her craft up to this point. She and her family are planning a signing day party. Mostly, though, she just wants the process over.

“I’m so excited,” Silva said. “Such a big stress reliever. Recruiting was not easy, especially for the 2023 year just with COVID and everything happening. It was more stressful than I thought. It wasn’t as fun as I truly thought it was going to be. But at the end of the day I got where I want it to be. I took my time. I really didn’t rush into anything, and it really paid off with being able to get where I want to.”