Pitchers hog 2013 high school Player of the Year awards

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                </div>Pitchers ruled this year, as The Arizona Republic picked its small-school and big-school baseball and softball Players of the Year.  Three of the four named to the awards earned the […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Pitchers ruled this year, as The Arizona Republic picked its small-school and big-school baseball and softball Players of the Year.  Three of the four named to the awards earned the honors on the mound – as well as at the plate.

On the girls’ side, Division I was passed over this year, with Taylor Nowlin from Sunrise Mountain High School in Peoria getting the big-school POY and Payson High‘s Ari Paulson named the small-school POY.

Nowlin was on the mound for 22 games this season, winning all but one, as the  Mustangs rode her strong arm to a Division II state title while compiling a 36-1 record.  She finished the season with 204 strike-outs and a 0.78 ERA.

Her contributions at the plate include nine home runs and 33 runs batted in, while posting a .402 batting average.

Grand Canyon University has scooped up the senior, to give the west Phoenix college some depth on its pitching staff as it begins to make the transition from Division II to D-I in the fall.

The Small Schools Softball Player of the Year is actually one-half of a package deal at Payson High.  Ari Paulson, a junior, shares the pitching duties with her freshman sister, Arissa – but gets the lion’s share of the work.

Ari is the No. 1 pitcher on the Longhorns’ staff, which is understandable since she was undefeated in 16 games this season and posted an 0.86 ERA while averaging just shy of 11 strike-outs per game.

When she wasn’t on the mound, her head coach, Will Dunham, kept her busy.  She also plays second base, third base, and anywhere in the outfield for the Division III school.

The third pitcher among this year’s selections is Andrew Bryniarski, the Small Schools Baseball Player of the Year from Fountain Hills High School.

Like Paulson, Bryniarski has another year to give to his program.  The junior led the Falcons to the Division III state title and will be back next year to try for a repeat before beginning his college career.

In addition to posting an 8-1 record and a 1.40 ERA, Bryniarski made major contributions at the plate.  His .444 batting average was punctuated with eight home runs and 41 RBIs – which led the team in each category.

The Big Schools Baseball POY, Riley Unroe, was also a terror at the plate, but provided defensive help from the shortstop position.  The senior at Desert Ridge High School in Mesa finished the season with a .553 batting average, a .636 on-base percentage, 10 home runs, and 59 runs batted in.  The 59 RBIs were tops in Division I.

He has committed to play his college ball at USC – if he doesn’t elect to go pro first.  His games typically include more than a handful of scouts and he says his ultimate goal is to play professionally.

Dan Hubbs, the USC head coach, made a huge recruiting coup in his first season with the Trojans.  But he probably shouldn’t hold his breath while Unroe decides between college and several million dollars.

But the team that’s really going to miss him next year is the one at Desert Ridge.