Armed with two of the finest pitchers in the state and a power hitting lineup led by seven players (20-plus games played) hitting over the magical .300 mark, the Lady Horns are primed and ready to earn the school’s first state softball championship.
The pursuit begins today, May 3, at Rose Mofford Sports Complex, located at 9833 N. 25th Avenue in Phoenix, against the winner of a tournament first-round game pitting No. 15 seeded Wickenburg against No. 13 Thatcher.
The Lady Horns take a No. 2 seed and a 27-4 record into the tournament.
Much of the success of this year’s team stems from the remarkable pitching of sisters Arianna and Arissa Paulson.
Arianna, a junior, sports a 15-0 record and a miniscule .94 ERA. Arissa, a freshman, has been sidelined much of the year with a back injury, but has managed to post a 5-0 mark and .54 ERA, according to Payson High School (PHS) statistics.
When they’re on, the sisters have proven almost unhittable. Arianna has 157 strike-outs to her credit and Arissa has K’d 55.
Moreover, Sadie Dunman, coach Will Dunman’s daughter, has turned in yeoman-like pitching duties compiling a 73 record and 3.52 ERA.
As good as the pitching has been, the team can’t win without potent hitters. Fortunately, they’ve got a dazzling lineup.
Senior Taylor Petersen is a threat to punch a round-trip ticket anytime she steps to the plate.
She first set the school home run record as a freshman, but this year has slugged 16 to set a new mark.
With a possible four state tournament games remaining, she could push her tally even higher.
In addition to posting Babe Ruth-like home run numbers, she is hitting .404 and has played in all 31 of Payson’s games.
Meanwhile, when Arissa Paulson isn’t striking out batters — she’s frustrating pitchers. She’s one of the state’s finest hitters, with a team .650 average. That includes 12 home runs, 16 doubles and a team high 44 RBIs.
Arissa’s contributions this year render her one of Arizona’s finest softball players in all divisions, IV through I.
Payson version of Murderer’s Row also include:
• Arissa Paulson — .534, 30 RBIs, 26 runs.
• Kaitlyn Wessel — .419, 7 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs and 32 RBIs.
• Megan Wessel — .412, 29 RBIs, 38 runs.
• Payton Petersen — .354, 29 RBIs, 27 runs.
• Cori Barnett — .349, 19 RBIs, 31 runs.
• Ali Tenney — .306, 19 runs.
• Sadie Dunman — .304, 14 RBIs, 16 walks.
Defensively, the Lady Horns have had their ups and downs, but the 45 errors committed is a reasonable mark for 31 games.
The infield has also turned in eight double plays and sports a .920 fielding average.
Catcher Taylor Petersen anchors the defense and is widely considered one of the best in the state at her position.
In 213 total chances, Taylor has committed just three errors.
At state, Lady Horn players might be fueled by extra motivation knowing they came within a whisper of advancing to the title game last season before falling to eventual state champion Bourgade in the tournament semifinals.