Nate Paulsen wasn't only a steadying influence on the field for Bridgeport this season. He was a steadying force in getting the Indians to the field.
Paulsen, a senior center fielder, was the team's most dynamic player as Bridgeport captured its seventh straight state championship last week, beating Hurricane 10-4 in the Class AAA title game at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.
He batted a stellar .505 on the season, clouting six home runs, 10 doubles and driving in 57 runs while scoring 49 and also swiped 20 bases. Those lofty numbers earned him the designation of captain on the Class AAA All-State first team as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
Bridgeport coach Robert Shields lauded Paulsen's contributions not only in helping the team thrive, but in keeping the players organized throughout a season that ultimately ended four weeks after the team's five senior starters had already gone through their graduation ceremonies.
When Covid-19 delayed the start of spring sports in West Virginia, the state baseball tournament schedule was pushed back about a month, which meant participating players had to doggedly stick to their daily workouts even as the rest of their classmates were already enjoying blissful summer distractions. Shields said Paulsen and the other seniors made sure the team didn't lose its focus.
"They became great leaders,'' Shields said. "It seemed like whenever we called for practices — whether it was going to be at 9 or 10 or 11 or 12, whatever it would be — they were the ones heading it up. They put in the time and they put in the extra effort.''
Shields said Paulsen's work ethic came to the fore during the lengthy season.
"He's a great leader and a great teammate,'' Shields said. "He's the type of kid who leads by example and he's worked really hard, especially with all the pandemic stuff, to put in the time all the way through this year. He's a good person and an overall good kid.
"On top of that, he's a phenomenal athlete. He came up with a lot of timely hits and drove in a lot of RBIs. He was clutch.''
In the state tournament, Paulsen went 3 for 8 in Bridgeport's two wins, scoring three runs and driving in two. He also completed an entire 38-game season playing errorless ball in the outfield, helping the Indians finish with a 34-4 record. The state title was their ninth overall, but the first in AAA.
The state tournament field was well-represented on the Class AAA All-State squad, with each of the four teams at Power Park providing three first-team selections, or 12 of the 18 total honorees.
Besides Paulsen, Bridgeport saw infielders Ryan Goff and Cam Cole earn first-team berths. Hurricane's trio included pitcher Ismael Borrero, outfielder Ethan Spolarich and utility man Joel Gardner. Jefferson had pitcher Riley Vadasz and infielders Cullen Horowitz and Zac Rose, and St. Albans placed catcher Trent Short, infielder Drew Whitman and utility man Tyson Burke on the first team.
The remaining first-team members included pitchers Quincy Thornton (Morgantown) and Logan Lingenfelter (Cabell Midland), outfielder Blake Hartman (Musselman) and utility choices Braden Shepherd (Huntington), Michael Bittinger (Wheeling Park) and Grant Hussey (Parkersburg South).
Here are capsule looks at the other first-team honorees:
Borrero — The lone junior on the All-State staff, he went 9-0 in nine starts and 12 total appearances, allowing 41 hits in 551/3 innings, striking out 46 and walking 17 with a 1.90 ERA.
Thornton — He carved out a 0.74 earned run average for the Mohigans, permitting just 28 hits and 18 walks in 471/3 innings while striking out 61 batters.
Vadasz — In 12 pitching appearances, he owned a 7-2 record with a 2.47 ERA, fanning 61 and allowing 21 bases on balls in 51 innings.
Lingenfelter — He worked 461/3 innings for the Knights, striking out 70 batters to go along with a 5-2 record and 2.87 earned run average.
Short — He batted .407 with 32 RBIs as the Red Dragons reached the state tournament a fourth straight time. Had just one error all season as a catcher, throwing out 14 would-be base stealers.
Horowitz — A third baseman, he hit .438 with 12 doubles, 16 home runs and scored 40 times while driving in 42. Also drew 29 walks and carried a .583 on-base percentage.
Goff — He batted .390 with 10 doubles, four triples and two homers, scored 43 runs and drove in 36 for the Class AAA champion Indians.
Whitman — A shortstop, he batted .470 with 27 walks, boosting his on-base percentage to .632. He scored 39 runs, drove in 22 and provided a steady glove on defense.
Cole — A leadoff hitter, he set the table for the Indians by hitting .440, stealing 39 bases and scoring 49 runs while collecting 26 RBIs.
Rose — He hit .341 with five homers and 32 RBIs and was 6-1 on the mound with one save, fanning 60 and walking 20 in 381/3 innings.
Spolarich — Scored 52 runs as the leadoff hitter, batting .468 and drew 27 walks, bumping his OBP to .569. He drove in 31 runs and had just two errors all season.
Hartman — He batted .455 with three homers and 27 RBIs, scoring 35 runs and going 13 of 13 on stolen bases. As a pitcher, he was 2-0 in 271/3 innings with 25 K's.
Gardner — The team's lone senior, he hit .440 with six homers and 39 RBIs and went 6-0 on the mound with 50 strikeouts in 35 innings and held a 1.20 ERA.
Shepherd — He batted .364 with 22 runs batted in and 15 stolen bases and went 5-2 as a pitcher with a 1.26 ERA and struck out 47 in 442/3 innings.
Bittinger — Hit .507 and struck out only twice in 83 plate appearances, scored 25 runs and drove in 26. Also pitched 112/3 innings, going 1-0 with one save.
Burke — He drove in 38 runs, scored 31 times and hit .467. Went 5-4 with one save on the mound, striking out 35 in 451/3 innings.
Hussey — An infielder-pitcher, he hit .325 with a .462 OBP and 26 RBIs. In 32 innings pitched, he fashioned a 1.09 ERA and fanned 28.
The second-team captain is Hurricane infielder Bryson Rigney.
P — Ismael Borrero, Hurricane, Jr.
P — Quincy Thornton, Morgantown, Sr.
P — Riley Vadasz, Jefferson, Sr.
P — Logan Lingenfelter, Cabell Midland, Sr.
C — Trent Short, St. Albans, Sr.
IF — Cullen Horowitz, Jefferson, Sr.
IF — Ryan Goff, Bridgeport, Sr.
IF — Drew Whitman, St. Albans, Sr.
IF — Cam Cole, Bridgeport, Jr.
IF — Zac Rose, Jefferson, Sr.
OF — Nate Paulsen, Bridgeport, Sr. (captain)
OF — Ethan Spolarich, Hurricane, Jr.
OF — Blake Hartman, Musselman, Sr.
UTIL — Joel Gardner, Hurricane, Sr.
UTIL — Braden Shepherd, Huntington, Jr.
UTIL — Michael Bittinger, Wheeling Park, Jr.
UTIL — Tyson Burke, St. Albans, Sr.
UTIL — Grant Hussey, Parkersburg South, Sr.
P — Carter Williams, Huntington, Sr.
P — Branson McCloud, Spring Valley, So.
P — Evan Wilson, Capital, Fr.
P — Bradley Lokant, Oak Hill, Sr.
C — Noah Hanna, Greenbrier East, Sr.
IF — Kyle West, Hedgesville, Sr.
IF —Trace Adkins, Lincoln County, Sr.
IF — Bryson Rigney, Hurricane, Jr. (captain)
IF — Ben McPeek, Parkersburg South, Sr.
IF — Aaron Forbes, University, Jr.
OF — Austin Holley, Cabell Midland, Sr.
OF — Aiden Paulsen, Bridgeport, Jr.
OF — James Salvatori, Wheeling Park, Sr.
OF — Jordan Mize, Greenbrier East, Sr.
UTIL — Ben McDougal, Bridgeport, Jr.
UTIL — Isaac McCallister, George Washington, Jr.
UTIL — Zach Calif-Boring, Buckhannon-Upshur, So.
UTIL — Joel Wise, John Marshall, Sr.
Connor Bailey, Jefferson; Gabe Bates, Lincoln County; Darris Boswell, Greenbrier East; Thomas Budka, Hedgesville; Grant Cochran, Princeton; Dustin Corley, Parkersburg South; Trent Dearth, Huntington; Caden Delauter, Hedgesville; Drew Elkins, Cabell Midland; Ty Galusky, Morgantown; Chris Harbert, Bridgeport; Drew Hogue, Bridgeport; Alex Holbert, Parkersburg; Grant Landis, Hampshire; Wes Landis, Hampshire; Justin Legg, Huntington; Logan Link, Washington; JD Love, Bridgeport; Austin Mann, Bridgeport; Jacob Miller, Musselman; Cameron Moore, Washington; Ty Nelson, Oak Hill; Grant Stratton, Spring Valley; Cory Sweeney, Cabell Midland; Caleb Thomas, Greenbrier East; Cooper Vaught, Woodrow Wilson; Frank Why, Bridgeport; Zane Wolfe, Oak Hill