Michael Palm has been teaching his oldest daughter Hayley how to play softball for as long as he either of them can remember.
What began with Michael tossing the softball to his 2-year-old girl became an unbreakable father-daughter bond over the next 15 years. Hayley’s skills, meanwhile, have matured to the point that she’s considered one of the top young players in southern Illinois.
The ace of the Mater Dei pitching staff, Palm’s four-year career came to an end this spring with a 2-1 loss to Pinckneyville at the Class 2A Johnston City Super-Sectional.
The loss also marked the final time Mater Dei coach Michael Palm will “officially” coach his daughter.
“We knew that day was coming, but after lost and the realization set in that he wasn’t doing to be my coach anymore ... it was a real tear-jerker,’’ Palm recalled recently.. “My dad, my sister and my mom ... we’re all really close. My dad has been my coach my entire life.’’
Michael has taught his daughter well. After a junior season in which she hit. 538 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI, while posting an 8-4 record in the pitcher’s circle, Palm enjoyed another solid season in 2019.
Palm batted .375 with six home runs and 25 RBI while again leading the Knights pitching staff with an 11-7 record and 1.98 ERA.
In earning her second straight Belleville News-Democrat Class 1A-2A Player of the honor, Palm was also a key cog in the 17-11 Knights’ run at a berth in the Class 2A State Softball Tournament.
Palm did her part against the Panthers, going 2-for-3 with a double at the plate and allowing just one hit while striking out six.
“I thought I pitched well. We had played and beaten (Pinckneyville) earlier in the season. But they had gotten a lot better and their pitcher shut us down,’’ Palm said. ”We had chances. We just didn’t get the timely hit. It’s high school softball. It happens.’’
Mater Dei also received excellent seasons at the plate from Abby Braundmeier (.480), Kellene Engelhart (.366) and Palm’s sister, freshman Ella Palm. The younger Palm hit .359 with two home runs and 21 RBI while playing first base and sometimes serving as her big sister’s catcher.
“She had a very good year and it was a lot of fun being on the same high school team with her,’’ Hayley said. “We’ve always been competitive with each other. I think she’s a little more competitive than I am. For some reason she wants do do things better than I do.
“But I’m the older sister.’’
Palm allowed just 82 hits all season in 124 innings while striking out 185 hitters. Her top performance of the season came on April 17 when she pitched a no-hitter, striking out 19 in a 1-0 win over city rival Central.
“I really worked on my pitching a lot in the off-season. I really don’t know why my power numbers went down the plate this season,’’’ Palm said. “Maybe I didn’’t swing the bat as much in the off-season.’’
Michael Palm said his daughter has worked very hard to achieve her success on the softball field.
“It’s been a great run for Hayley She has had many big moments on the field and off,’’ Michael Palm said. “She’s worked hard for a long time to be a good player, but she’s an even better young lady. She’s very mature which will serve her well at the college level. But I’m really going to miss not being her coach.’’
For Palm, the next level will begin at John A. Logan College in Carterville.
“I’m really looking forward to attending Logan,’’ Palm said. “The coaches are really young, which I like and when I went down for my visit I really enjoyed the atmosphere when I was around the other players. Plus it’s only 90 minutes from home so when I want to come home for a weekend, I can.
“It’s doing to be tough to be away from home. My mom (Linda), my dad and my sister are my best friends and we’re all really close. But it’s time.’’