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By JOSH CLAYWELL firstname.lastname@example.org
BOWLING GREEN — Tesha Paysen accomplished something no other LaRue County High School softball player had ever accomplished under veteran coach Mielle DiStefano.
Paysen, who graduated from LaRue County last month, was the first Lady Hawk to be named to the Kentucky All-Stars and the first player to be named an East/West All-Star in consecutive years.
“She’s one of those players that we’re going to talk about for years,” DiStefano said. “She set the legacy for herself.”
Paysen’s legacy began when she was in seventh grade. Paysen was mostly used as a pinch runner that season, but DiStefano knew she had the potential to be one of the best to come through LaRue County.
“She’s the best outfielder that’s come along in a while,” DiStefano said. “You can’t beat her speed in the field or on the bases.”
Earlier this month, Paysen helped lead the West Senior All-Stars to wins over the West Juniors, 6-0, East Juniors, 8-3, and East Seniors, 3-2.
On Thursday at Western Kentucky University, Paysen helped the Kentucky All-Stars end a two-year drought against the Tennessee All-Stars. Tennessee had swept the series the previous two years and won the first game Thursday, 1-0, but Kentucky won the last two, 10-4 and 3-2.
Paysen went 0-for-2 at the plate, but scored one run in each of the final two games of the best-of-three series.
“I didn’t care if I played,” Paysen said. “I was just happy pinch running.”
Paysen started Game 1 in center field and went 0-for-2. She scored a run as a courtesy runner in Game 2 and was the flex player in Game 3, scoring a run on an inside-the-park home run.
“It was amazing being around the best players in Kentucky,” Paysen said.
Paysen was one of 16 athletes selected from around the state by the Kentucky Prep Softball Board.
Team members were Jessica Adkins, Owensboro Catholic; Abby Baylor, Corbin; Hadley Clark, Owensboro Catholic; Jordan Clemons, Grayson County; Casey Cravens, Lexington Paul Dunbar; Lindsey Green, Bowling Green Greenwood; Brooklynn Jimison, Middlesboro; K.K. Oaks, Montgomery County; Emily Priar, Owensboro Apollo; Abby Sears, North Laurel; Samantha Sparks, Russell; Abbey Stepp, Woodford County; Lauren Sullivan, Allen County-Scottsville; Amanda Walden, Greenwood; and Jessica Williams, Shelby County.
The All-Stars were coached by Owensboro Catholic’s George Randolph, Christian County’s Tony Burkeen, Franklin County’s Tracy Spickard and Lexington Tates Creek’s Jeff Shearer.
“I’m just very grateful I was selected,” Paysen said. “I don’t even know what to say. I’m just very happy.”
Paysen intends to walk on to the softball team at the University of Louisville next spring. Paysen has talked with Louisville coach Sandy Pearsall a handful of times and is excited about the possibility of playing for the Cardinals.
“She’s really nice and she wants to find people that are committed to softball and that want to play for her,” Paysen said.
And while she hopes Paysen earns a spot at Louisville, DiStefano admitted it will be strange not seeing No. 1 (Paysen’s jersey number) on the lineup sheet.
“We had open field the other night and it was a weird feeling (not having Paysen there),” DiStefano said. “I hope she does try out and gets a spot, but it’s up to her. She’s going to do good in whatever she does.
“She’s left a lasting impression on all the teams we’ve played,” DiStefano added. “You can go through and ask if they remember Tesha making a catch or a big play and they’ll say yes.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at 505-1752