By Greg Klein
---- — For her 17th birthday, Maggie Hall got some nice presents.
She got a cell-phone charger. She got pizza and ice cream. Her parents promised to buy her a prom dress. But none of those things compared to the present Hall gave herself and her Cooperstown teammates on April 17 in Hamilton.
Hall, a junior shortstop, hit two home runs, went 4-for-4 and had six RBIs in Cooperstown’s 14-1 win over the Emerald Knights. She reached base in all six of her at bats, as she was walked once and also hit by a pitch. She said it was the best game she has ever had at the plate, but winning the game made it even better.
“The biggest thing to me was to beat Hamilton,” Hall said. “I’ve wanted to do that for three years now and it hasn’t happened. We went in this time with an open mind and made it happen.”
Hall homered in the fifth inning and hit a three-run shot in the sixth inning. Both home runs went over the fence in left field.
“The second one, they were tying to intentionally walk her,” Cooperstown coach Dave Bliss said. “The pitcher made a mistake and left the pitch too close to the plate and she went and got it. There was no doubt about it either. From the moment she hit it, you knew she just crushed it.”
Bliss said that Hall is one of the best players he has ever coached in his 13 years at CCS.
“As far as position players, she is,” he said. “We’ve had some great pitchers in the program, but in the field, she is the best we have ever had. She’s got a very strong arm. Obviously she’s got a really good bat. There’s no doubt in my mind that she is a college level softball player.”
“She’s got good fundamentals, which is really important in college,” he continued. “At this level, you can get by with being a good athlete. In college, they want to see that you do things the right way because it gives you so much more room to grow. That’s what Maggie has.”
Hall still has a year to go at Cooperstown, but she already is dominating the CCS softball record book. She is the season leader in hits, doubles and home runs, and has tied several other players as the season leader for runs, RBIs and triples. She is already the career leader in doubles, triples and home runs, and could end up as the career leader in hits and RBIs as well. But she says she doesn’t care about records.
“After Ellen (Vibbard) got a home run and Nicole (Cring) had a bases clearing (single) against Mount Markham, people were coming up to me and saying, ‘they’re going to beat your records.’ To be honest, it kind of bothered me,” she said. “I think of myself as a humble person. It isn’t about records with me. Don’t they know that? I just want to help my team win,” she said.
Hall said she takes more pride in a different statistic.
“I started the first game of the (varsity) season my freshman year. I have started and finished every game since then,” she said.
Added Bliss: “Our school doesn’t allow eighth graders to play varsity sports, but if we did, she would have started in eighth grade as well.”
Hamilton’s starting pitcher, a sophomore phenom named Becca Rogers did not pitch against Cooperstown. Rogers has a shoulder injury. Junior Cydnee Wendt pitched instead, but Bliss said it didn’t diminish Hall’s accomplishments.
“Becca’s the best pitcher we would face all year, but it is Hamilton. They are a softball power,” Bliss said. “Their second pitcher is probably the second-best pitcher we will face all year.”
Hall also plays soccer and basketball, but said that softball is her best, and favorite, sport. She plays it year round, traveling with a select team called the TC Tremors.
“We do tournaments in the summer and play games in the fall,” she said. “In the winter, we work out in the gym. The only season we really stop is spring when we play varsity.”
The schedule does require compromises. Hall dropped travel soccer and AAU basketball early in high school. Other aspects of her life are hard to keep up with.
“I have given up most of my social life to play softball, and it is hard to keep up with my classes,” she said. “I am working really hard to stay ahead academically, because in the end, it is my grades that will get me into college, and not my softball.”
Bliss said he thinks Hall could play softball for an NCAA Division I school.
“Division I would be nice, but the main thing is I want to be able to play right away,” Hall said. “I’d rather go to a little bit smaller school and play right away than go to a big school and sit on the bench for three years.”
College is still a year and a half away. In the meantime, Hall is in the middle of everything athletically for Cooperstown. And while her birthday game was exceptional, it wasn’t the exception.
“I am enjoying the high school experience,” she said. “You only get it once. Sometimes it is hard being in high school but I am so lucky to experience it with my team around me.”