Over a four-year career as a starter for the John Jay softball team, Kayla Fisher played every inning of every game.
But the most important 69 innings probably came this season, after starting pitcher Brooke Altneu went down to injury midway through the season.
The Indians had only one other player who could taking over the all-important pitching duties: Fisher, the team’s catcher.
And pitch she did. The senior captain rose to the occasion and, despite having not pitched in four years, helped the Indians finish the regular season at .500, before giving fifth-seeded Ursuline all it could handle in a 3-2 loss in the first round of the Section 1 Class A playoffs.
Fisher also led John Jay in batting average (.476), hits (30), RBI (22) and on-base percentage (.548), and struck out only twice in 80 plate appearances.
Her exploits earned her all-section honorable mention recognition for the second year in a row, and all-league honors for the third time in four years.
And most impressive of all, she was was to the Diamond Nine Plus One team at the Section 1 softball dinner earlier this month. It is believed that she is first John Jay player to win the prestigious honor, which recognizes 10 outstanding players for their success on and off the field, based on grade-point average, years of playing softball, softball recognition, and extra-curricular activities.
“For not pitching at all, I did pretty well,” said Fisher, who had pitched for her eighth grade team before moving up to the varsity team as a freshman.
With two strong pitchers in Theresa Swertfager and Kim Dolhon, the Indians were set on the mound for the next three years, with Fisher the team’s starting catcher for her first three seasons.
“I didn’t expect to pitch again,” she said. “I was always the catcher. We had two other pitchers who were very good pitchers.”
With Swertfager and Dolhon graduating, the pitching duties this season were taken over by Altneu, a freshman. However, she suffered a concussion during a game and was not allowed to return to pitching duties due to school protocol.
Fisher moved from behind the plate to the mound, and finished the season 8-4 with one save and a 3.55 earned run average. Among the highlights was a no-hitter against Carmel and a three-hit shutout against Greeley late in the season. She led the team in innings pitched (69) and had 36 strikeouts.
Since pitching is so crucial to success in softball, Fisher was put in a critical spot. But she said she never felt any pressure.
“I’m not a player who gets nervous in games,” she said. “I knew my teammates were behind me and the whole coaching staff was helping me out.”
It helped to have fellow senior (and four-year starter) Emily Downs behind the plate, she said. Downs, the team’s starting shortstop, had been the catcher on the eighth grade team when Fisher had last pitched.
“We have a really good relationship and she was able to call pitches that I was comfortable with,” said Fisher. “She really helped me get through the season.”
John Jay was able to win seven of its final 10 regular-season games, before the 3-2 playoff loss to Ursuline. Fisher turned in an outstanding performance on the mound, pitching a complete-game four-hitter and allowing only one earned run.
Fisher was proud of the team’s success (final record of 10-11), given the Indians graduated two all-section players (and both pitchers) and had a new coaching staff and many younger players moving into key roles.
In addition to leading the team in batting, hits, RBI and on-base percentage, Fisher was among the team leaders in doubles (five), slugging percentage (.556), runs (18) and walks (seven), and led the Indians in sacrifices for the fourth year in a row.
Over her career at John Jay, Fisher has helped the program enjoy some of its most successful seasons in years. After the Indians went 10-12 her freshman year, they had their first winning season in six years in 2014, finishing 13-9.
In 2014, John Jay had a banner year, with its best regular season in 10 years and a final 17-5 record. Fisher emerged as one of the top players in the section with a breakout season that saw her hit .431 with 31 hits, 25 runs scored and 22 RBI.
She finished her career with 106 base hits, helping John Jay compile an overall record of 50-37.
Fisher also excelled in the classroom, making the honor roll every quarter during her four years at John Jay. She took multiple AP (five) and honors courses (seven), while maintaining an A GPA. She was a member of the National Honor Society.
“As much as athletics has always been a part of my life, my parents have always pushed me to achieve in school,” said Fisher, who will study bioengineering (with a focus on biomedical) at Union College, where she also plans to continue her softball career.
While excited about the future, Fisher said it will be hard to say goodbye to her senior teammates, and close friends, who have been such a big part of John Jay softball for the last four years. The group includes Downs and fellow four-year starter Ashley Berton, along with three-year standouts Megan Herdrich, Susan McCauley and Nikki Hammond.
“We were the closest group to play at John Jay. I’m going to miss playing with them,” she said.