High School Sports

Small in stature, Mater Dei junior doesn’t lack power or talent

Mater Dei junior Hayley Palm is among area leaders in batting, home runs and RBIs this season. She also has nine wins in the pitcher’s circle for the Knights.
Mater Dei junior Hayley Palm is among area leaders in batting, home runs and RBIs this season. She also has nine wins in the pitcher’s circle for the Knights. teschman@bnd.com

One look at Mater Dei High School junior softball player Hayley Palm and it’s hard to believe she is one of the top power hitters in the St. Louis area.

But during the 2018 season, the 5-foot-2, 125-pound Knights pitcher-oufielder became one.

After hitting just two home runs during her first two seasons, Palm became one of the most feared small-school sluggers in the area this spring, belting 10 home runs and finishing the year with 32 RBI.

“I think a lot of it has to do with just maturing and getting stronger,” Palm said. “My dad works with me a lot on making contact and I’ve really learned to use my legs.

“But I was surprised. I didn’t expect to hit so many home runs this season.”

But Palm was far more than a power hitter for the Knights this spring. She ranked in the top 10 in the St. Louis area in hitting with a .538 average, and her slugging percentage of 1.309 led hitters was tops. On the mound, meanwhile, she accounted for nine of Mater Dei’s 14 wins and finished with a 2.76 ERA.

Honored as the Belleville News-Democrat Class 1A-2A Player of the Year, Palm is currently enjoying a solid summer season as a member of the St. Louis Fusion 18-and under team. The squad has played in several tournaments this summer and is scheduled to play in a softball showcase in Springfield in the upcoming weeks.

“We have gone to a couple of tournaments. A few of the girls have already committed to colleges, so we’re not traveling as much,” Palm said. “ I’m been in contact with a couple of schools and hopefully if I do well in these showcases, I’ll have a few more.

“I love to hit and so whatever school lets me do that is one I’ll be interested in. I also won’t want to go too far from home, someplace within three hours. I’m a family girl.”

Softball is a family sport in the Palm household. Palm’s younger sister, who will be a freshman at Mater Dei this year, also plays and her dad, Michael Palm is the Knights’ head coach.

Michael Palm said his daughter matured and became more of a disciplined player both at the plate and on the mound this season.

“I thought Hayley matured a lot which helped a ton. She really tries to be disciplined at the plate. More than anything, swinging at good pitches to hit means everything,” Palm said. “ Pitching wise she became more consistent and worked on developing another movement pitch that helped her. It was just a really good season.

“Her mother and I couldn’t be more proud of her. She has worked hard for a long time to become a special player.”

Palm also said work in the weight room, encouraged by Mater Dei football coach Jim Stiebel, has made a major influence on her increased power numbers at the plate.

‘”Working out in the weight room is something I just really enjoy doing,” Palm said. “I had coach (Stiebel) for gym class my freshman and sophomore year and he really encouraged me and helped get me started. He’s great at motivating people.

“I didn’t play basketball this year and so after school I would go in and just work out. It made me feel good about myself and I know its made me stronger.”

In addition to hitting 10 home runs, Palm also added 11 doubles. Of her 35 hits this season, 21 went for extra bases.

Palm also matured as a pitcher in 2018. Mixing in a changeup to go along with her 58-59 mph fastball, the hard-throwing arm also developed a rise-ball which made her even more overpowering.

Palm finished the season with 84 strikeouts compared to only 42 walks in finishing with a 9-4 record.

“For one thing our defense played great all season and that made us a much better team,” Palm said. “And I developed a rise ball which made my fastball even better.

“But I think what really helped me was that I matured more as a pitcher. I knew how to handle different situations better and understood what pitches to throw. I was able to get a head of hitters more often as well. My dad is also telling me to focus, focus, focus. Concentrate on each pitch and do my best. I did that better this year.”