After moving south from Minnesota two years ago, Leah Powell admits she still hasn’t gotten acclimated to the warm weather.
While she tries to get used to the climate, softball teams from around the state are still trying to get used to her.
The Evans sophomore dominated on the mound and at the plate this past season en route to becoming The Augusta Chronicle All-Area Softball Player of the Year. Powell helped lead the Lady Knights to a region championship and a third-place finish in the Class AAAAAA Tournament. She was recently named the Class AAAAAA Pitcher of the Year by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association.
Powell said she started focusing on the 2017 season soon after her freshman campaign ended. She finished this past season with a 26-2 record, 1.22 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 166.2 innings.
“I knew I had to step up my game more,” she said. “I had to throw more accurate pitches. And I had to have more movement on my pitches.”
Powell double-dipped in the Region 3-AAAAAA honors. While she was named Region Pitcher of the Year, she also earned Player of the Year honors after hitting .451 with 16 homers and 47 RBI in 34 games. The power surge came after she hit just three home runs her freshman season.
“I just felt like I needed to hit more line drives and get the ball up in the air instead of on the ground,” she said. “Swing hard.”
Powell was born in Miami, where she started playing co-ed T-ball when she was 4. She began playing softball at 8 and became a pitcher a year later. She started her high school career throwing seven pitches, the drop-curve her favorite.
In 2010, the family moved to Minnesota, where Powell said they don’t close school unless the temperature drops well below zero. She played club softball year-round, even playing some games in 50-degree weather inside a dome.
Her family moved in late 2015 to the Augusta area, her father taking a job at Plant Vogtle.
Powell has settled in at Evans, where she has myriad goals. While she wants to throw more strikeouts and fewer walks next season, she also wants to set the Evans single-season home run record – she tied Jenny Shepherd’s mark first set in 2008.
Powell said she also wants to win a state championship. She and her teammates – everyone, including all-state infielder Diamond Williams, is expected to return – will be viewed as title contenders.
Beyond high school, Powell said she’s looking forward to playing softball at the next level. She verbally committed to South Carolina during the summer. While Alabama and Florida were showing interest, she decided to make the Columbia school her future home.
“It was the atmosphere,” she said. “It was the coaches. It’s a brand new facility they just built. All the dorm rooms they just built were amazing.”
At South Carolina, Powell will get to measure her talent against other Southeastern Conference players. She said she’s looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s going to be hard. You’re playing with the best of the best,” she said. “My freshman year is going to be quite an experience playing people I’ve watched on TV.”