Mikayla Paulson apparently made quite an impression on Creighton softball coach Brent Vigness.
Vigness attended Fremont High School’s A-1 district championship game against Papillion-La Vista last October. Although FHS lost that day, Vigness showed a recruiting interest in Paulson, who was the Tigers’ starting shortstop.
“He watched me play that one game and offered me a spot,” she said.
Paulson signed Tuesday to play for the Bluejays. She also considered Nebraska Wesleyan.
“Creighton had more of my major-oriented field of studies,” Paulson said. “I want to be an occupational therapist. Creighton had better pathways and opportunities to get me into OT school and provides the schooling I need for that.”
Paulson earned All-Heartland Athletic Conference honors as a senior. Her 63 hits in 2018 broke Steph Baker’s school-record of 61 set in 1999. Her 52 runs scored broke her own single-season mark of 40 set in 2017. Her 42 singles also bettered Baker’s FHS record of 39 set in 1999.
Paulson’s .485 batting average as a senior trailed only Mallory McQuistan’s mark of .500 set in 2014. The shortstop also holds the single-season record for walks with 32 set in 2017.
“Mikayla provided us with great stability for the past four years,” Fremont coach Mike Schleicher told the Tribune in November. “She definitely had the physical tools in place as a freshman, but continued to expand and strengthen her understanding of the position as well as her leadership role on the field. Offensively, she had her best statistical year this past season.”
Paulson was a four-year starter at shortstop for the Tigers. Being a starter at the Class A level as a ninth-grader can have its challenges, but she believes she benefited from the experience.
“It definitely made me grow up a lot faster,” she said. “I realized pretty early on I’d have to put in a lot of work as a freshman since I was playing with a bunch of seniors. It kind of set the pace for my work ethic and motivated me to be the best I could possibly be.”
Fremont finished 24-19 last year facing a challenging schedule that included the Monarchs, who finished as the Class A state runner-up, and eventual champion Lincoln Southwest.
“I thought as a team we really jelled together,” Paulson said. “We had great bonds between the players. That was the thing that stuck out the most. We were able to connect on a lot of different levels. It really translated into our record and how we played teams.”
The Tigers’ schedule should also pay dividends for Paulson as she moves on to the NCAA Division I level.
“I think the type of competition we saw during the regular season will prepare me for college based on the types of hitters and pitchers we faced,” Paulson said.
Paulson said Vigness recruited her as an athlete. She could see a variety of roles for the Bluejays.
“I can play wherever he needs me to,” she said. “I think that played a role in his recruitment. He mentioned looking into the outfield, but he has all of his girls play multiple positions so I think I’ll see many spots.”
Paulson has played for the Quakes in select softball in the past, but will compete for PrimeTime this summer. She is grateful for all of her past coaches.
“All of my summer coaches have had a major impact on how I play and my basic fundamentals as a player,” she said. “Coach Schleicher definitely helped with my fielding and a lot with the mental game, too. He always stressed having a positive attitude and having a good mindset when you are up to bat and also where to go with the next play.”
Paulson is hoping to improve her offense, especially getting more consistent with her slap-hitting, but she is eager for the next level.
“In my first year, I just want to establish a role on the team,” she said. “Whether that is sitting on the bench and cheering on my teammates or being out on the field or up at bat. I just want to establish a role and find out what I can do to help the team in anyway that I can.”