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PREMIER GIRLS FASTPITCH HIGH SCHOOL ALL-AMERICAN GAME: West squad’s Jazmine stands on top of the Hill, leads team to victory over East

RECENT GAHR HIGH graduate Jazmine Hill scoops up one of the three ground balls hit her way during last Saturday’s Premier Girls Fastpitch High School All-American Game at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine. Hill was named the game’s most valuable player after going two for three with a single, a double, two runs batted in and a run scored as her West squad defeated the East 6-3. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

BY LOREN KOPFF @LORENKOPFF ON TWITTER

IRVINE-In a region of the United States where Hollywood scripts are written everyday and fairytales come true, Jazmine Hill experienced both last Saturday afternoon at the Premier Girls Fastpitch High School All-American game. The recent Gahr High graduate put on a show that impressed everyone in attendance and brought more smiles to the coaches at Arizona State University, where she will next showcase her talents.

Hill went two for three, drove in a pair of runs, scored once, turned a double play on defense and made four other plays in the field as her West All-Star team doubled up the East 6-3 in the 4th annual event at Deanna Manning Stadium. Hill was one of two players to pick up a pair of hits and was named the game’s most valuable player.

“It was just a fun experience,” Hill said. “The most important thing is that everyone has fun and we just go out and do what we know how to do.”

Hill said she heard about the All-American game at the beginning of her senior season and knew she had to push herself both playing for the Lady Gladiators and her travel softball team, the (Orange) So Cal Athletics-Richardson, which finished in third place in the Premier Division of the PGF National Championship. She knew that if she wanted to get on the West team, she had to stand out and be the best. She did and a few weeks after the CIF-Southern Section playoffs ended, she got an email and phone call stating she had been selected as one of 42 players who made the Western Region team, which covers seven states. That number was trimmed in half and comprised the West team with 16 coming from California, three from Arizona and two from Washington.

Hill with the MVP trophy

The West team was also coached by Jennie Finch, a La Mirada High alumna, three time All-American at the University of Arizona and U.S. Olympian, among other things. And, what made this experience for Hill and the rest of the players unique is that the team never practiced or played together until last Saturday night. 

“She’s a gamer,” Finch said. “That’s the hot corner and she’s got to try to get hard hit balls up there and she handled it well. Beautiful. On this stage, a lot of pressure kind of going in and that was my advice to [the players] before. You’ve earned it to be here, enjoy it, soak it up, have some fun in this game and just be you. But, she did well and made things happen at the plate. She’s a good player.”

“It was kind of weird, but this is a fun group of girls,” Hill said. “They’re outgoing, so it was pretty cool. At first it was kind of weird because we’re all getting to know each other. But there were some familiar faces because everyone has seen each other on the field, either in high school or travel. So, we knew we just had to come together in this moment.”

The game was scoreless until one out in the top of the third inning when Jadelyn Allchin (Huntington Beach High) was walked and Ciara Briggs (Orange Lutheran High) and Alyssa Garcia (Mater Dei Catholic High, Chula Vista) singled to load the bases. Allchin would then be thrown out at home as Maya Brady (Oaks Christian High) was safe at first.

Then on four straight balls, Hill was walked to bring in Briggs for the game’s first run. The West would score five in that inning and one more in the last inning as Hill’s base hit to center with two outs plated Garcia. Hill’s first hit came in the second, a one-out double to center, and would advance to third on a wild pitch before being stranded.

At her third base position, Hill caught the first out in the bottom of the second inning and assisted on the final out. In the next inning with runners on first and second base, Jourdyn Campbell grounded out to Hill, who stepped on third base to get the second out before throwing to Raeleen Gutierrez (St. Lucy’s High) to complete the double play. 

She then caught a line drive from Gabi Deters for the first out of the bottom of the fourth inning and again assisted on the last out of the frame.

“Offensively, there were some great pitchers, but I just knew I had to execute and do my job and move runners,” Hill said. “So, that was my mindset. Defensively, I just knew I had to back up my pitcher and make plays no matter where it was.”

Besides being selected to play in this prestigious event, Hill was equally excited to be coached by Finch, along with Lovieanne Jung, who grew up in Orange County and played for UCLA, and former University of Arizona standout Toni Mascarenas. The East team was coached by Suzy Brazney, Alyssa Palomino and Natasha Watley.

“I was so excited,” Hill said. “I was fan drooling a little bit because that’s all we see when we’re growing up, is Jennie Finch. It was a great moment and I was super excited.”

“It’s more just to have fun,” Finch said. “It’s celebrating the athletes that they are and yes, of course you want to win. You have pride; westside, eastside. But ultimately, they’ve earned the opportunity to be here and to showcase their skills. It’s more just letting them kind of have their night to shine, and that’s what they did.

“It’s really just to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity that they have and being named PGF All-Americans, that’s huge, that’s huge,” she continued. “These are the next All-Americans, these are the next Women’s College World Series MVP’s. You never know what we’ve got. But the future is bright.”

Cerritos High head softball coach Kim Ensey also played a big part in the game as she is the player liaison for the two teams. Ensey was asked by PGF President and Chief Executive Officer Dan Hay to take on that role and ever since, Ensey has overseen the players for the week. She makes sure they have all their stuff they need and where they need to be and plan events for them.

“It’s just really fun getting to know each of the girls and spending the week with them,” Ensey said.

As far as the players not practicing or playing a game together before the All-American game, Ensey said she wasn’t too worried how they would perform on the field, since this is what the sport is all about.

“Some of them knew each other from playing against each other,” Ensey said. “A couple of them play together on a regular basis. But for the most part, they’re meeting each other for the first time. It’s really special because they’re such an elite group of players that they just understand the game so well. They play at that high level day in and day out, so they just know what to do. When you play at that high level, it doesn’t matter who’s on the field with you. It’s going to be a really great game.”

Ensey also gave high praise to Hill for her accomplishments in the game, as well as her time at Gahr.

“I’ve always respected her as a player and it’s something really special having coached in the Cerritos area for the last few years and getting to know all the girls,” Ensey said. “Especially the girls and the families that I know extremely well that play on my travel ball team and my high school, team. They know her, they grew up in the rec league system with her in Cerritos. They actually were just talking about Jazmine and how they were so proud of her.”

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