Hill of an effort: Ace, Madison fall in 10 innings

Kayla Hill had just completed her own personal Houdini act, magically getting out of jam after jam against Tottenville, which boasts the city’s best lineup. She left the bases loaded once and stranded two on twice. She navigated around Division I stud hitters.

The James Madison ace was nothing short of Superwoman for 10 innings – even the eventual winning run was unearned.

So it would have been easy for Hill to be angry at her teammates for not scoring a single run, for mustering just three hits against Tottenville starter Cheryl Lopez. Except she was just the opposite.

“I can’t be disappointed,” Hill said after No. 2 Madison’s 1-0 loss to top-seed Tottenville in the PSAL Class A softball championship game Saturday at St. John’s. “We played almost 10 full innings without them scoring. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”

Tottenville (21-0) had first and second with no outs in the fifth and Hill got Jillian Giuffre to pop out to right field, she struck out Krista Casale and induced Jennifer Palase into hitting a comebacker. In the next inning, Samantha Mattsson and Victoria McFarland both singled and Jillian Regan walked with two outs, but Hill got Nicole Fillisetti to pop up foul to Jennie Hosty at first base.

Her most daunting test came in the eighth. Lopez and Nicole Palase both singled, bring up McFarland, the city’s most feared hitter, with one out. Hill managed to get McFarland to ground into a fielder’s choice and then she struck out Regan to end the inning.

“Kayla is a great pitcher,” Tottenville coach Cathy Morano said. “She kept us off balance. We did get hits off her, but we couldn’t put anything together.”

Hill allowed eight hits and walked just two batters in what was probably the best pitching performance against Tottenville in years, eclipsing her own gem last year in the PSAL city championship game when Madison (18-2) won. It was her last high-school game, she had no margin for error and it came against the toughest lineup to pitch to in New York City.

“That shows how great Kayla Hill is,” Madison coach Jeff Meltzer said.

There would be no happy ending, though. Mattsson got a one-out single in the 10th and, after Hill got Nicole Palase to pop to short, McFarland blooped in a flare to right center. Samantha Rehill misplayed it in right and Mattsson came all the way home from first to win the game and earn Tottenville the title.

“You wish that she was able to make that cleanly,” Meltzer said. “But there’s no saying that if she caught the ball cleanly and threw it that we would have gotten [Mattsson] out.”

Madison was the victor in an incredible, extra-inning final last year. Meltzer joked that he would have asked for a raise if the Knights won again, but he couldn’t be upset with the effort two years in a row, especially since they graduated five senior starters from 2010 and had two freshmen in the lineup.

“At the beginning of the season we were nothing like we are now,” Hill said. “My team, we’ve progressed so much since Day One of practice. To be here and fight like we did, I couldn’t be any prouder.”

She did all that most people thought possible against Tottenville – and more. But it just wasn’t enough.

“It really is bitter sweet,” Hill said. “It’s not fun to lose. But the way we lost, I’ll take it.”

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