It’s a luxury most high school softball coaches don’t have.
In fact, Payson High’s Kadi Tenney is one of the few coaches anywhere with two pitchers possessing the kind of talent Arianna and Arissa Paulson have.
“There is no one else in the state right now that has what we have with that one-two punch,” Tenney said. “You can’t go wrong. I feel 100 percent confident putting either of them in there. We are very blessed.”
The sisters have helped power Payson to No. 1 in the Division 3 power rankings, which debuted Wednesday.
One game after senior Arianna Paulson, who will pitch at Brigham Young University, came within a questionable ball-four call in a full-count situation of pitching a perfect game, her sophomore sister Arissa took her turn in the circle for the Longhorns on Tuesday afternoon.
And the 10th-grader was perfectly dominant, striking out all nine batters she faced in three innings of work as Payson beat visiting Holbrook 17-7 in a five-inning mercy rule game.
Holbrook managed seven hits and seven runs — three earned — in two innings against freshman Karlie Smith. PHS committed a pair of errors leading to four unearned runs with her in the circle.
“I don’t even think there was contact with the ball unless somebody fouled a pitch off that I don’t remember,” Tenney said. “She was just a powerhouse. She threw with speed and accuracy and she just shut them down.”
Arianna Paulson is 8-3 with a 1.06 earned run average and 109 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings. Arissa Paulson is 3-0 with a 0.50 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 14 innings.
Tenney said catcher Payton Petersen’s role in the team’s dominant pitching should not be overlooked.
“I want to emphasize how critical it is that we have a catcher who can handle these pitchers,” the coach said. “And Payton is doing a fantastic job handling these two pitchers. A catcher is critical when you have pitchers with their ability. It’s huge. She just does a great job behind the plate.”
The Longhorns led 10-0 and scored seven runs in the fourth to go ahead 17-3 before the Roadrunners got four back in the fifth, one run short of cutting the deficit to single digits and making Payson bat again in the fifth.
But the Paulson sisters aren’t one-dimensional. Both are powerful hitters, who’ve belted four home runs apiece, to go along with impressive batting averages.
Although she wasn’t making news with her pitching performance, Arianna Paulson, who played shortstop, continued to terrorize opposing pitchers. She went 4-for-4 with a home run, a double, six RBIs and four runs to pace the Longhorns’ 11-hit attack. She’s hitting .592 for the season.
“She’s on fire right now,” Tenney said of Arianna Paulson. “(Assistant coach) Curtis Johnson made the comment to me, ‘she’s the best hitter I’ve ever seen.’ She adjusts well to fast, slow, inside, outside pitches. She’s just such a smart batter and has so much power. She’s just a force to be reckoned with right now.”
Arissa Paulson is batting .439 after a 1-for-4 day against Holbrook.
Cori Barnett went 1-for-2 with two RBIs as PHS improved to 16-8 overall, 7-0 in power points games and 3-0 in Division 3 Section 5.
PHS plays at Cottonwood Mingus today at 3:45 p.m. before returning home for a big Section 5 showdown with unbeaten state power Winslow (No. 2 in Div. 3 at 9-0 in power points games, 18-0 overall, 0-0 Section 5 entering Thursday’s game with Round Valley) at 3 p.m. Tuesday before entertaining section rival Show Low (No. 3 in Div. 3 as of Wednesday at 8-0 in power points games, 16-5 overall, 1-0 Section 5 entering Thursday’s game with Blue Ridge) in a non-section game at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
There can be no doubt that the Longhorns are one of the premier teams in Division 3 after reaching the state semifinals each of the last two seasons. And Tenney is looking forward to a challenging schedule next week.
“It’s a tough week,” the coach said. “And we’ve got Mingus first and they’re a strong team and we’re not going to take them lightly. And Winslow and Show Low are always tough. And we’ve got Camp Verde next Saturday and they’re tough.
“We feel good with where we’re at, but we still have work to do and it’ll be good to play some teams that will give us a little more competition because that’s the only way to get better. That’s the only way we can improve.”