— By Chris Johnson, Connect-Bridgeport
BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — It’s been a week of firsts for the Bridgeport High School baseball program.
After winning six consecutive Class AA state championship from 2014-2019 (the 2020 season, in which the Indians would have likely been the top contender, was wiped out because of COVID), Bridgeport moved up in classification, went 34-4, and made it seven titles in a row capturing the school’s first-ever AAA title with a 10-4 win against Hurricane.
Nate Paulsen had a huge role in the Indians’ success as the team’s centerfielder and clean-up hitter. So huge in fact, that he has been named the State Player of the Year by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association — marking the first time the honor has went to a Bridgeport player.
“It feels really good,” Paulsen said. “I worked really hard this past summer and the offseason to get prepared to help my team win another championship. The big goal was to get another championship but to get this honor means a lot to me, it’s very humbling.”
The Indians had arguably the most prolific offense in school history scoring 430 runs in 38 games. Through the regular season, their average margin of victory was 12-2. Paulsen hit .505 with six home runs, 57 RBIs, 49 runs scored, 10 doubles, three triples and stole 20 bases.
Leading the team in both runs scored and runs driven in is a sign that a player is not only making the most of his own at-bats but he’s getting some help from the rest of the lineup.
“That was the great thing about this year’s team, this lineup, we got production from every spot,” Paulsen said. “When you know you don’t have to be the one to come up with the big hit or be the one get something going, it just takes the pressure off. I think we all knew that and it just made us all relax when it was our turn to hit.”
While Paulsen’s offensive numbers speak for themselves, he was considered just as impressive in the field with range that let him track down every type of fly ball and an arm that kept the opposition from trying to take an extra base. He had 40 putouts without an error this year.
“Nate had an outstanding year both on offense and defense,” Bridgeport coach Robert Shields said. “He worked hard and he became a leader for this team. This is a great honor for our program, we have had a lot of great players here and to have the state player of the year is just incredible.”
Paulsen will continue his baseball career in the fall at West Virginia State. He says that opportunity, along with the Indians winning another title and his individual accolades, wouldn’t have been possible without the extra work he put in since the pandemic wiped out his junior season, which included a stint playing summer ball with the Ohio Elite travel team.
Paulsen beat out Jefferson senior Cullen Horowicz and Logan sophomore Dawson Maynard for player of the year honors. He will be presented with the award at the 75th annual Victory Awards Dinner which is tentatively scheduled for May, 2022 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.