Mud no problem for Paulson
In a drizzling rain, with mud caking under her cleats and a choppy and muddy mound Tuesday night, Fruita Monument High School pitcher Mallory Paulson might have thrown the hardest she’s thrown all season.
Wildcats catcher Morgan Young would know.
“She was throwing harder than I’ve ever seen her,” Young said. “If my fingers start stinging, then she throws hard enough.”
Paulson hits hard enough, too.
The Fruita senior hit two home runs and pitched a complete-game three-hitter in Fruita Monument’s 10-2 victory over Grand Junction in Southwestern League softball at Bergman Field. She also had a double and was 3 for 4 with four RBI.
Fruita (12-4, 8-0 SWL) took sole possession of the league lead over Grand Junction (13-3, 6-1).
Paulson hit a solo home run in the first inning, a double in the third, and a shot over the wall in right-center for an opposite-field, two-run home run in the fifth.
She also struck out nine Tigers, pitching for the first time in two weeks after sustaining a rib injury.
Where does the performance rank among her personal bests?
“Oh, in the top 10,” Paulson said.
Paulson nearly had a third home run in the seventh inning, driving the ball to the warning track when the ball was dropped.
“It was real nice to play Grand Junction, a rivalry game, real important in our league,” Paulson said. “I just take every game as the same game, work hard, and then things just happen. ... They happened my way tonight, so that was good.”
Not even a third-inning homecoming-dance invitation could ignite Grand Junction. Leaning over the right field wall, Grand Junction football player Robbie Gonzalez and three friends held four signs with a message for Tigers right fielder Maddie Marsh that collectively read: “Will you go to homecoming with me?”
On an announcer/scorekeeper’s request, Marsh held up two arms to indicate her answer: “Yes.”
Melissa Gonzalez, mother of Robbie, said the two have known each other since they were 3 years old and even went to day care together.
The invitation was a hit, and it was, perhaps, the Tigers’ most effective hit of the night. Grand Junction managed only three hits against Paulson, one of which was a Brittany Arcieri bunt single.
Paulson mixed her fastball with a curveball that breaks away from righties, into lefties, and drops a bit to both. She said the muddy mound sometimes caused erratic pitches.
“The mud gets clumped on the cleats, and with the mud on the ground you can’t get a good grip with your feet, good traction,” Paulson said. “Sometimes I’d slip, and it’ll go where you don’t want it to go. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Said Fruita coach Jack Thomas of the muddy conditions: “If anybody can handle it, Mallory can.”
Even after an injury.
“(Paulson) had a little injury, but she’s better now,” Thomas said. “She’s been throwing bullpens, getting stronger, and this is the time of the year when these seniors are stepping up.”
Fruita and Grand Junction each have three league games remaining.
Fruita plays Central on Thursday and Grand Junction is at Montrose.