At his age, Mike Ponsiglione didn’t think that he would be offered a job as a softball coach at the college level, but after 13 years coaching at St. Joseph by the Sea in Staten Island he got a job coaching the Brooklyn College Bulldogs.
“I played baseball here in the 80s,” Ponsiglione said. “So this is like coming home for me. I’m really embracing it. I never thought that I would get a college job at my age and I’m grateful to the administration for hiring me. I love it, I love everything about the job. So far the kids and I have gotten along great. They work hard for me, they believe in what we’re trying to do.”
It might have taken him 13 years to land a coaching gig in college, but Ponsiglione has immediately inherited a team that is capable of winning a championship in the City University of New York Athletic Conference right away.
The biggest reason is because of Kayla Hill, a junior who transferred to Brooklyn College from Pace last year and won the CUNYAC Player of the Year award in her first season in the conference. She dominates both sides of the field as she hit .333 with 14 extra-base hits and won 11 games with a 3.01 ERA last season.
“She’s an athlete, she has a great knowledge of the game,” Ponsiglione said of Hill. “She hasn’t played the outfield in years and I’m asking her to play right field when she isn’t on the mound this season. She’s done a good job with it already and it really helps our defense having her out there.
“She’s just got a great knowledge, she anticipates things before they happen. And she can play both sides of the ball, offense and defense. She can do it all.”
The team is poised to win beyond her with 13 of the 16 players being upperclassmen. The senior core also includes three players, Stephanie Caravello, Meagan Cranston and Allison Donovan, that have been with the team all four years and provide the team with solid leadership.
“This year we only have one new player so it’s pretty much all returning from last year,” Donovan said. “We have a lot of experience on the team. It’s a new look this year and we’re getting used to new things, but having that core makes it easy.”
Those three players each have over 100 career hits at Brooklyn College and lead a formidable offense along with Hill, but it is the Bulldog’s pitching staff, that includes Hill, Marie Oneto, Amanda Bisz and Kimberly Brennan, that really makes them stand out.
“We’re great,” Hill said when asked about the pitching staff. “There are four of us that all bring our different styles to the field. There are a few different teams with good pitching as well, but nobody has four pitchers each one with their own unique style. I think that makes us stand out. We’re a force, something to look out for. If one thing doesn’t work, we can put someone else in.”
Last year’s team was solid with a 23-17 overall record and a 8-4 record in conference. They were knocked out of the CUNYAC playoffs by the College of Staten Island and Hunter College and lost to Elmira College in the Eastern Conference Athletic Conference Metro Championships. This year, expectations are much higher, though.
“You always shoot for the moon,” Ponsiglione said. “I would like to win the conference and, no disrespect to anyone, but we should win the conference. I want these kids to believe that. There is no reason we can’t win it.”
The Bulldogs are off to a good start so far as they swept a doubleheader against New Jersey City University on Thursday night at Brooklyn College. Those games gave them a chance to show off the depth in their lineup and gave a couple of their starting pitchers their first test.
“It is great to come out and get two wins on the first day,” Donovan said. “I think it was a great showing, we played great defense and all around great ball. It’s good to get started off on the right foot.”