06/02/13 — All-Area softball: Bulldogs' Paul named pitcher-of-the-year

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All-Area softball: Bulldogs' Paul named pitcher-of-the-year

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 2, 2013 1:53 AM

Once Tori Paul strapped on a helmet and went to work inside the pitcher's circle, the nerves and shyness seemed to disappear.

She gained a competitive edge and undoubtedly got down to business. The Princeton right-hander baffled hitters throughout the season with an arsenal of pitches and she mixed speeds well.

The results spoke volumes.

Paul guided the Dogs to a program-best seventh consecutive Carolina 1-A Conference regular-season championship and 19 victories. Princeton advanced to the eastern semifinals of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs for the second time in the past three seasons.

And the modest Paul logged a solid 1.82 earned run average.

"I struggled some, nervousness I guess, but I had the defense to back me up," said Paul, who was named the 2013 News-Argus All-Area Softball Pitcher-of-the-Year.

"Overall, I was pleased with my season ... we ended up doing pretty well. Winning the conference championship was fun. We felt like we could do it, we believed in ourselves."

Paul got away from pitching a couple of years ago until injuries prompted head coach Terry Braswell to get her back inside the circle. She took lessons and completely embraced the starting pitching role last season, filling the shoes left by Traci Bridgers, a former News-Argus All-Area Pitcher-of-the-Year.

As her confidence grew, so did her ability. Paul didn't rely too heavily on her fastball, which had good natural movement. She frequently worked in a change-up, screwball, two-seamer and drop ball, too.

Plus, her teammates became more relaxed behind her.

"It started to come together (this year) and we hope it comes together more next year," a smiling Braswell said. "She's become more comfortable and has been working, getting the reps and motion, plus hitting her spots. The girls felt comfortable with her in the circle and everyone stepped up, backed her up and did their job.

"It was a great effort all the way around."

Paul concluded the year 13-2 in 17 starts. She logged 103 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings and held opposing teams to a .168 batting average.

Princeton reeled off 17 consecutive wins after a 2-2 start and suffered a season-ending loss to eventual eastern runner-up Heide Trask.