Paulson takes on bigger role for Fruita

Mallory Paulson will assume the role of No. 1 pitcher for Fruita Monument, which reached the Class 5A state semifinals last year. Paulson takes over for Erika Chirdon, one of 4 players who graduated from last year’s team.



QUICKREAD

CENTRAL

League: Southwestern (5A)

Coach: Scott Else (3rd year)

2010: 18-4 (9-1), lost in the first round of the state tournament.

Players to watch: Brittany Hoppe, Sr., SS; Amber Walters, Jr., P/1B; Emily Zich, Sr., 1B/3B.

Outlook: The Warriors lost three four-year starters, but have Hoppe back with 10 other returning varsity players.

FRUITA MONUMENT

League: Southwestern (5A)

Coach: Jamie Dunn (3rd year)

2010: 21-3 (9-1), lost in state semifinals.

Key players: Mallory Paulson, Jr., P/IF; Kendra Williams, Sr., OF; Shannyn Thomas, Sr., OF; Hannah Englbrecht, Sr., OF; Hannah Mahnke, Jr., 1B.

Outlook: The third-ranked Wildcats will have to fill some key roles to make another state tournament run.

GRAND JUNCTION

League: Southwestern (5A)

Coach: Adam Diaz (4th year)

2010: 13-8 (5-5)

Key players: Cierra Cosslett, Sr., P/3B; Arrianna Diaz, Jr., P/SS; Elisha Jahnke, Soph., P/3B; Morgan Zanski, Soph., C; Brianna Baldwin, Soph., CF.

Outlook: With Cosslett back in the pitching circle among five returning starters, the Tigers expect to be better and compete with Fruita and Central for the league title.

PALISADE

League: Western Slope (4A)

Coach: Nicole Zuniga (1st year)

2010: 14-8 (8-0), eliminated in regionals.

Key players: Angela Gordon, Jr., OF; Shalyn Pilling, Sr., C/IF; Shelby Rubalcaba, Soph., P/IF.

Outlook: Zuniga will bring an aggressive approach as the Bulldogs rebuild after losing nine seniors to graduation.



Mallory Paulson is no longer one of the younger girls on the softball team.

The Fruita Monument High School junior is now an upperclassmen, and she’s excited about the added responsibility.

“It’s a different experience being one of the older girls,” Paulson said. “It’s nice to have people look up to you and you can help them.”

She played a strong supporting role last season for the Wildcats, who won the Southwestern League and reached the Class 5A state semifinals. Paulson was the No. 2 pitcher for the Wildcats, going 11-1 with a 1.69 ERA and hit .385 with four home runs and 30 RBI.

This year, Fruita coach Jamie Dunn and the ‘Cats will look to Paulson to take on a leading role.

“Mallory is still pitching, but she has a completely different role,” Dunn said. “Mallory is going to have to take the load. Mallory’s going to have to step it up at the plate as well. There’s going to be some added responsibility this year and there should; she’s a junior.”

Paulson will have to take on a bigger role with the graduation of pitcher Erika Chirdon, catcher Ashleigh Wissel, shortstop Taylor Johnson and second baseman Nika Schminke.

“The four of them were the total package,” Dunn said. “They were a coach’s dream. They knew my system for a year. They knew what I expected of them and have been playing together a long time.

“From the first day I came in, (Ashleigh) Wissel had them going. The four of them were unique and brought something special to the team. That was the difference.”

Paulson played with those four as long as she’s played competitive softball.

“It was fun,” Paulson said. “I knew those girls for a long time. I’ve been playing with most of them for five years. It was a good experience. I miss them.”

Paulson might miss Chirdon and her pitching talents the most.

“I learned a lot from Erika,” Paulson said. “She had an amazing changeup. That’s where she was effective. Learning from that is huge. To get a good changeup and get the hitters off-balance is what you have to do.

“I don’t think anyone can have as good of a changeup as Erika.”

Paulson worked on her changeup over the summer.

“It’s kind of tough when we go to Denver and I’m the only pitcher,” Paulson said. “It’s nice to have someone else there to rely on. If I have a bad game, I knew Erika could come in and do fine.

“I think we’ll do fine this year with the pitchers we have.”

Dunn is hoping another pitcher proves capable of pitching some innings for Paulson and expects seniors Kendra Williams, Hannah Englbrecht and Shannyn Thomas to pick up the offense.

Juniors Mariah O’Dell, Hannah Mahnke and McKenzie DeCrow will have an opportunity to contribute, too.

“We have to put together a solid defense,” Dunn said. “I know we’ll hit the ball. We take the time on fundamentals. We’ll figure it out as we go. Defense is going to be the key. You really understand the importance of chemistry. You have to have a level of chemistry to make it that far.”


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