Chino Hills Ayala High softball pitcher has a mean pinkie

Jessica Hall was 15 months old when she touched her father’s electric saw when he wasn’t looking and had a quarter-inch severed off her left pinkie.

Who knew then that she would turn the accident into an advantage?

Hall, a senior on the Chino Hills Ayala High softball team, is now one of the state’s top pitchers, and the left-hander says her finger’s unusual length has helped her throw with additional control.

“I use it as a positive,” Hall said.

Ayala (18-3) will play at Diamond Bar in a Sierra League game on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., and Hall, who has already signed to play for UCLA next year, will take some impressive statistics into that game. She has a record of 17-1 with a 0.59 earned-run average and 198 strikeouts in 119 innings.

Hall was recruited by several of the nation’s top college softball programs, including Washington and Arizona, but a chance encounter at an early age had already all but determined her decision.

When she was 10, her father took her to a fundraiser where people paid to try to hit pitches thrown by UCLA softball legend Lisa Fernandez.

Wide-eyed, the young girl watched big, burly men pay large sums of money to swing and miss again and again.

Hall’s father, Charlie, only had $40 in his pocket, but he asked Fernandez if she’d be willing to give his daughter a chance. Fernandez, who hadn’t given up a hit all day, agreed and lobbed a soft, perfectly centered pitch to Hall, who hit a blooper to second base.

“The fact I even touched it was cool,” Hall said. “It made me want to meet her more one day.”

Hall had the ball signed by Fernandez, placed it on her bedroom mantle, and worked hard. Even with a scholarship already secured, she hasn’t stopped.

She plays five days a week with her high school team and practices during the weekend with her club team. She also attends plyometric training sessions twice a week and attends private pitching and hitting lessons in addition to practicing with her father.

“She leads by example,” Ayala softball coach John Ameluxen said. “She always has a smile, doesn’t take herself too seriously and works really hard.”

Sometimes after a strikeout, a teammate will yell from the dugout, “It’s the pinkie!” Hall grins in agreement.

At a tournament her sophomore year, she led an unsung Ayala team past La Palma Kennedy, which was then the No. 1-ranked high school softball team in the nation.

Fernandez, now a UCLA assistant coach, was there watching—and Hall quickly became a Bruins recruit.

Two months ago, the coach came over to the Halls’ home for dinner, and Jessica handed Fernandez the ball she signed seven years ago.

“It was unreal knowing that my dreams could come true,” Hall said.