Hill, PSAL earn bragging rights in first softball NYC Mayor’s Cup

Eight hours after getting home from her prom, Kayla Hill was on the field at the College of Staten Island warming up. The James Madison senior ace was more concerned with getting a decent six hours of sleep and playing in the NYC Mayor’s Cup than partying all night or going down to Seaside Heights with her classmates.

“Unfortunately I’m not gonna be able to play in my Madison uniform forever nor would the chance to play with all the top PSAL players be there again,” the Pace-bound Hill said.

Hill might not have been voted Madison prom queen Saturday night. But she was the queen of the diamond Sunday afternoon.

The flame-throwing right-hander struck out 10 batters over the first four innings and came back in the ninth to strike out two more to lead the PSAL team to a 6-2 win over the CHSAA in the inaugural NYC Mayor’s Cup softball senior all-star game. Hill, who gave up just an unearned run on two hits with 12 strikeouts in five total innings, was named the event’s first MVP.

“Her pitches, her movement — not only does she have speed, she has movement,” St. Joseph by the Sea star Jackie Kelly said of her Jaxx travel ball teammate. “Ridiculous movement.”

After getting into trouble early -— St. John Villa’s Brittany Smith led off with a bunt single and scored on an error after stealing third base — Hill struck out seven straight batters. The only other baserunner she allowed was Kelly, who had the lone legitimate hit off her in the fourth.

PSAL coach Cathy Morano of Tottenville brought Hill back in the ninth to seal the victory. Madison and Tottenville have met in four of the last five PSAL city championship games and Hill ended the Pirates’ six-year streak atop the city last year. Tottenville got revenge by beating her and the Knights last weekend.

“It was actually nice,” Morano said of having Hill at her disposal. “She’s a great pitcher.”

Hill said it was somewhat odd being on the same team with her rivals, though she is friends and travel teammates with Tottenville’s Nicole Palase.

“I was on third base cheering for [Tottenville center fielder Victoria] McFarland to get a hit,” Hill said. “Usually I’m the one like, ‘Oh please don’t get a hit. We need to get these outs.’”

After the CHSAA took that 1-0 lead in the first, the PSAL came right back in the bottom of the inning to tie it up. Susan Wagner’s Danielle Locke led off with a bunt single and showed off some incredible speed. The Western Connecticut State-bound outfielder stole first and second before scoring on Tottenville third baseman Samantha Mattsson’s sacrifice fly – to Nicole Alaimo at second base.

After Locke’s bunt, St. Francis Prep pitcher Katie Derby retired the next nine batters she faced in a solid performance. But in the fourth, Hill led off with a single and Mattsson bunted for a hit. Derby got the St. Joseph’s University-bound Palase to fly out to right and struck out McKee/Staten Island Tech’s Sophia Palumbo after wisely walking the Albany-bound McFarland with first base open.

Construction’s Ashley Burke came up with the big two-out hit, a line-drive single up the middle that Smith misplayed in center. Three runs would score, giving the PSAL a 4-1 lead. LaGuardia catcher Chelsea Correa followed with an RBI single to bring Burke home to extend the advantage to 5-1.

“I was impressed,” Hill said of Burke’s knock. “She came through in the clutch.”

The PSAL would score once more in the sixth when Palase tripled off Nazareth’s Stacy Peralta with no outs and McFarland drove her in with a sacrifice fly to left. The CHSAA made it 6-2 in the eighth when Smith slapped a line drive into right off Clinton pitcher Tayna Pena, a ball that Telecommunications’ Liza Acevedo misplayed. The speedy Smith ended up coming all the way around to score.

Hill came in thereafter and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. The PSAL players celebrated after and the team was awarded with a large gold cup.

“I thought it was nice that the girls came together,” Morano said. “We got together yesterday for practice and they were all sitting around talking and stuff. Through the game, everyone was cheering for each other. It was a real nice experience and it was really done well.”

The organization was a tad last-minute, especially on the CHSAA side – coach Maureen Rosenbaum of Archbishop Molloy knew nothing about the event until Tuesday when her team won the CHSAA state title. But, all things considered, it was a smoothly run event.

“It was a nice start to hopefully a new tradition,” Rosenbaum said.

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