Kayla Hill was very particular when it came to picking a college. The James Madison star pitcher didn’t want something too far away. She also wasn’t interested in playing Division I, preferring the Division II level because of its less-strenuous workload. The excellent student also wanted a place that would challenge her academically.
So when Pace coach Claudia Stabile called Hill to tell her she had a spot on the team just a day after a tryout at the Westchester school, she was sold. Pace had just about everything she wanted.
“The recruiting process is so long and stressful with not knowing where you’re gonna go,” Hill said. “You have to put both academics and softball into it. So I was relieved.”
In the fall, Hill accepted a partial academic scholarship to Pace — it was more than the athletic package given to her — and will pitch and play the outfield for the Setters next season.
She also had interest in New Haven, Fairleigh Dickinson at Florham and Delaware, where she wouldn’t have played softball because it’s Division I. Hill wanted to ensure that softball would not be her entire college life.
“I like that it’s still competitive, but I can have the college experience,” Hill said of Division II.
If she wanted to be and pursued it more, coach Jeff Meltzer said, Hill could have very well been a Division I scholarship player. The 5-foot-2 righthander is arguably the city’s best pitcher and led Madison to the PSAL Class A city title last year, ending Tottenville’s six-year reign. She was brilliant against the Pirates in that game, giving up just one earned run in seven innings.
“I would say if she was four more inches taller she would probably have a D-I scholarship,” Meltzer said. “She’s such a competitor. Look at the speed she gets on the ball now and she doesn’t really use her legs. When she gets stronger, she’ll really be terrific.
Hill twirled another gem Monday, giving up just two runs on nine hits with four strikeouts against St. Joseph by the Sea, the defending CHSAA state champion. Madison lost 2-1, though, and it was Hill’s first loss — league or non-league — since she was a sophomore. She is also an elite hitter, batting second for the Knights. Hill had a .543 average with 18 RBIs and 28 runs scored in 14 league games last season.
“She is the team basically,” Madison senior co-captain Becky Ganley said. “It takes a whole team, but everything surrounds around the pitcher.”
Ganley said she has noticed Hill become more of a leader this year now that she’s a senior. Being one of the more experienced players is new to Hill since last year’s title game was made up mostly of seniors.
“I was always younger than the rest of my team,” Hill said. “I always looked up to those older than me.”
Now she’s the one people look up to — if not literally. Hill will try to lead Madison to a repeat in the PSAL this season and then she’s off the Pleasantville to pitch for Pace. It’s just the pace she wanted.
“I was very content with it,” Hill said. “That’s what I was looking for.”