It’s hard to believe Kyllie Magill, the former St. Raphael Academy All-State softball catcher, is now in her final semester at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
It seems like only yesterday she had been drilling doubles and blocking the plate for the Saints, who always were in contention to win the Division I state title.
Magill, now the Minutemen’s starting second baseman and senior tri-captain with pitcher Sara Plourde and outfielder Katie Bettencourt, admitted this weekend she’s rather tired after team trips to Florida, Alabama and St. Louis. The 21-year-old Pawtucket native nevertheless promised she’ll fight through that fatigue to help her squad earn the Atlantic 10 Conference crown.
“This season, I’d like to win the A-10 championship, and also win an NCAA (Division I) Regional (game),” she explained via e-mail Monday. “We have an All-American pitcher (Plourde) and some great players, so I think we have the tools to do that.
“We have a shot to go undefeated in the conference with the great team we have, and that would be cool, too,” she continued. “Individually, I just want to be a great leader, give my team good at-bats and be a strong presence on the field.”
UMass didn’t capture the A-10 title last spring, but preseason prognosticators have chosen it to reign this season. She stated both Fordham (of New York City) and St. Joseph’s (in Philadelphia) have formidable squads, “but I believe that no one can stand in our way if we’re playing at our potential.”
The Minutemen have been on the go since Feb. 10, when they traveled to Miami, Fla. for the Combat Classic. Playing five games in three days, they sandwiched victories over Illinois, Florida International and Michigan State around losses to Alabama-Birmingham and then No. 25-ranked Louisville (a 2-0 defeat).
Two weeks later, the weekend of Feb. 24-26, they trekked to the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Fla. for another quintet of tilts. After suffering an 8-0, five-inning loss to DePaul, they upset 12th-ranked Michigan and 17th-ranked Georgia Tech (1-0) before dropping decisions to Illinois and 10th-ranked Tennessee.
At the Easton Alabama Invitational in Tuscaloosa March 2-4, UMass pummeled Maryland, 16-6; lost two straight to top-ranked Alabama and unseeded Alabama-Birmingham; but rebounded with a 4-1 triumph over Maryland.
It returned to Clearwater for the USF Under Armour Tournament on March 16-18, snagging four of five, the triumphs over North Carolina-Wilmington, Northern Colorado, Tennessee-Chattanooga and Florida-Gulf Coast. The lone loss came to Illinois.
In back-to-back tilts March 19-20, the Minutemen lost, 2-1, in eight innings to No. 25 South Florida (in Tampa), then dropped a 13-5, five-frame verdict to Northwestern in Clearwater.
Magill and Co., however, began their conference campaign in fine fashion, drilling host St. Louis by 5-0 and 8-0 counts on March 25. In the process, they moved to 13-10 overall and 2-0 in A-10 play. (Their home opener against Dartmouth on March 27 was cancelled, and they’re scheduled to battle Quinnipiac in Amherst today at 3 p.m.).
When asked how the trips down south helped the squad, Magill offered, “It’s good to get in some games against good competition in great weather instead of playing on a gym floor indoors. It gave us time to warm up and really hit our stride so that we come into conference play ready to go.”
She also indicated that the squad’s itinerary was hectic, as it had very little time to decompress and relax. Veteran head coach Elaine Sortino and her staff expect their players to be disciplined in all aspects of college life.
“That’s debatable,” Magill said, referring to a query about that principle aiding the team, “but it keeps the team focused on on task. Our coaches refer to it as (taking) a business trip. We’re there on a mission, and nothing gets in our way.
“The most memorable part of the trip would be our come-from-behind win, 12-11, against Chattanooga on Saturday night (March 17),” she added. “It was a real team effort and a fun game to play. I love the warm weather in Florida. It makes for a great practice environment on the field as opposed to a gym floor.”
Four years ago, Magill decided on attending UMass because she wanted to stay relatively close to home, and because it had the best winning tradition in the Northeast.
“When I was a freshman, we already had two-year starters at catcher and shortstop, but had an open spot at second,” she mentioned as to how she came to play the position. “I’ve always considered myself a versatile player, so I wanted to play a position that would get me on the field (and) help the team … Sometimes I do miss catching because we have such a strikeout pitcher on the mound. Sometimes there isn’t much action in the field, but it’s a fun spot to play and I enjoy it.”
It’s easy to tell. Defensively, Magill ranks third on the team in putouts (34), assists (15) and chances (52), not to mention sixth in fielding percentage (.942).
She, however, is hardly thrilled with the offense she’s provided the Minutemen this spring. Entering today’s tilt against Quinnipiac, she has a .246 batting average, good for sixth on the roster, and six RBI; but she also ranks first in walks (11), tied for first in sacrifice bunts (4), third in runs scored (9), knotted for third in doubles (4) and fifth in hits (15).
Funny thing is, Magill tops her teammates in batting average with two outs (.385) and the bags loaded (1.000); is tied for third in average with runners on base (.306) and average when advancing runners (.556); and is fourth in average when reaching base as a leadoff batter.
When asked if she knew her season statistics thus far, she said only, “I’d have to look them up, but I know (they’re) not very good. My dad (Carl) keeps track of that stuff more than I do. I think it’s bad luck to look at your stats, especially when you’re not sure if you’re batting over .200.
“I know I started off very slow, but I’m definitely doing better now, and I’m on the upswing.”
It showed against St. Louis last weekend. In the first game of the doubleheader, she went 1-for-3, and followed that up in the nightcap with a 1-for-1 effort. She also scored a run and walked once.
Perhaps she expects more of herself offensively because she did so well in high school.
“I was only an All-State selection one time at Saints, (that being) my senior year, which was by far my worst,” she mentioned. “I batted .380 that year, but hit in the .600s the year before and in the .400s the two years before that. I know I’m capable of doing more.”
Her off-season highlight: Discovering her selection as a tri-captain.
“I’m very excited about it,” she said. “We found out on Alumni Weekend in October … I feel we’re getting better every weekend, and we just opened with two wins on Sunday in St. Louis, which is a very good team in the A-10.”
When the spring ends, Magill will graduate with a Bachelor’s in kinesiology, and – from there – she will attend the University of New Hampshire to chase a Master’s in exercise science.
“From there, I may consider med school of getting a Doctorate in kinesiology,” she said. “But, as of right now, I’m just focusing on the season.”