The best pitcher in Payson High softball history has thrown her last pitch for the Longhorns.
Arianna Paulson led the Longhorns to the three best seasons in program history since arriving with her family from Ohio.
PHS reached the Division 3 state semifinals her first two years and advanced to the championship game this year for the first time in school history. The Longhorns went 86-18 (.827) since her arrival. And they were 84-13 (.866) if you don’t count the 2-5 performance without her in the Gracie Haught Classic this year when she and two others were in Greece and a fourth starter was attending a wedding.
During the regular season, she was 14-3 with a 1.14 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings and batted .565 with 47 runs and 31 RBIs. In her final game in the circle, she fanned 10 Snowflake batters and belted a lead-off home run as the Longhorns beat the Lobos 6-2 in the semifinals on Friday night at Rose Mofford Sports Complex.
Ari, as her friends and teammates call her, played shortstop when her sophomore sister, Arissa, pitched, which was about half the games. She would have been a standout defender at any position.
“It’s a huge loss,” Payson head coach Kadi Tenney said. “You can see how big it is statistically to lose her because she’s our best bat and she’s a fantastic pitcher. And she’s great in every position.
“But what you don’t see on the statistics is what a leader she is. They love her. They look to her in everything. She sets the tone for whatever we do. So it’s not just losing a great player, it’s losing a really great leader.”
The fact that she’s the only senior on this 29-9 team that matched the school record for wins established by last year’s 29-5 squad, is reason for optimism. With everyone else returning next spring, maybe the Longhorns can finally capture that elusive title they’ve been striving for.
Ari believes that’s a very real possibility.
“I think they definitely can,” she said. “It’s all just about how hard you work in the season. So, if they work hard, I’m sure they can be back here next year. Every team loses players every year.”
But players like Arianna Paulson don’t come along every year.
No, players like this are rare. They come along, shine brightly, and are gone way too soon.
Of course, she’s just moving on to shine at Brigham Young University.
BYU softball fans are in for a treat.