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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Petite Paquin was a beast for Campbell softball champs

George Scione

Big things do come in small packages. It’s true. It was proven over the last week of this spring’s high school season.

Sure, Emily Paquin is small in stature, has a bubbly personality and an infectious smile. It would be wrong of anyone to think they can take advantage of the Campbell High School graduate’s traits. ...

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Big things do come in small packages. It’s true. It was proven over the last week of this spring’s high school season.

Sure, Emily Paquin is small in stature, has a bubbly personality and an infectious smile. It would be wrong of anyone to think they can take advantage of the Campbell High School graduate’s traits.

Prospect Mountain coach Rick Burley found out firsthand June 9. He doubted, even after the Cougars senior had struck out 12 of his Timberwolves on the way to a four-run win and a spot in the Division III final four yet again.

“Not taking anything away from their pitcher, but we’ve seen better,” Burley said. “It just wasn’t our day for hitting, I guess. She just kept us at bay for some reason. We struck out 11 times, but regardless, they put the ball in play and we didn’t.”

Exactly. You didn’t put the ball in play because Paquin was in the circle.

It was a postgame comment that got an eye-roll from Paquin and a fired-up batterymate in catcher Brittany McNulla.

“I think he was just throwing shots at her to make himself feel better, maybe,” said McNulla, who along with Paquin has reached the final four every year since they were freshmen and contributed to all three Campbell championships in that span. “I’m not sure. Maybe she wasn’t the fastest pitcher, but she was definitely throwing awesome that game. All her spin was on, keeping them off balance. I don’t think it was their hitters. I think she was throwing great.”

In 2013, Paquin came in to close things out in the final, a 7-5 victory over then defending champion White Mountains Regional of Whitefield. Paquin came on in the bottom of the fifth with a 7-5 lead in relief of starter Olivia Martinage and held the dangerous Spartans bats to one hit in 22⁄3 innings while striking out one in a scoreless relief performance.

The only thing that changed in this year’s title game was that Paquin started and went the distance for back-to-back championship victories over WMR.

She may be sweet before and after games, but her demeanor changes as soon as you hand over the softball. Campbell coach Joe Raycraft had an up-close view of the attitude shift the last two seasons.

“She’s just a pressure pitcher,” Raycraft said. “She just loves and thrives on competition. She came in last year in the championship game and shut them down. This year, she was given the opportunity to start and she really did a super job.”

Let’s break down her three-game tournament performance.

Quarterfinal: No. 3 Campbell 5, No. 11 Prospect Mountain 1

Paquin struck out 12, walked two and allowed one run on three hits. She had allowed just one hit through six innings. Obviously her dominating performance left Burley as dazed and confused as the Timberwolves batters. Otherwise there’s no explanation for the coach’s post-game rant.

Semifinal: No. 3 Campbell 14, No. 2 Conant 5

With plenty of run support to work with, Paquin had one bad inning, her worst of the tournament, when she allowed three runs on three hits and a walk in the fifth inning against the Orioles. Nonetheless, Paquin (five runs, seven hits, five strikeouts, three walks) finished with another win against an undefeated Orioles squad that beat the Cougars twice in the regular season.

Final: No. 3 Campbell 1, No. 1 White Mountains Regional 0

Paquin saved her best for last, out-dueling Gatorade New Hampshire Player of the Year and Division III Pitcher of the Year Erika Millett with seven shutout innings, allowing just five hits and a walk to go with eight strikeouts.

“It’s cool coming in as the underdog,” Paquin said. “Even me included, people don’t look at me as a better pitcher than most. I was an underdog too.”

Surprisingly, this self-proclaimed underdog is stepping away from the diamond for now.

While Millett will attend and play softball at the University of Southern Maine, the pitcher that bested her on the biggest stage two seasons in a row is headed to Southern New Hampshire University to focus solely on her schoolwork.

Paquin claimed that intramural games may be something she does to keep those competitive juices flowing next year. Not sure if that will satiate her competitive fire.

It just seems like such a waste of natural ability and skill. If Penmen softball coach Deb Robitaille only knew the talent that will be walking onto the Goffstown/Manchester campus this fall, there’s no way she’d let Paquin avoid her diamond.

Prospect Mountain, Conant and White Mountains Regional sure wish she avoided theirs.

“I think she’s done amazing, keeping all the batters off balance,” McNulla said. “I don’t think anyone in this division – she might not throw the hardest, but she definitely has the best change-up for sure. She keeps them off balance with spin. She was on every time she pitched. We know how valuable she was going for this title.”

Paquin is small in stature with the heart of a lion or, as in this case, a Cougar.

George Scione can be reached at 594-6520 or gscione@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Scione on Twitter (@Telegraph_BigG).