EFFINGHAM — Dan and Kristi Paulson aren’t uncommon to the Effingham County area.
The co-head coaches of the Parkland College softball team, Dan and Kristi have four Effingham County players on the roster, all of which have made their rightful impact in the Cobras’ surge to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) World Series in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Dan talked about each one to Effingham Daily News Sports Editor Alex Wallner.
Davis was a 2021 Effingham High School graduate.
She is batting .426 this season with 63 hits, 40 RBIs, 44 runs, a .448 on-base percentage and a .662 slugging percentage.
“We’ve been blessed to coach Jaidi for several years, even before Parkland. She’s a sophomore leader, but what’s more impressive about Jaidi this year is that she transformed herself,” Dan said. “Last year, she was strictly a pitcher for us. She got seven or eight plate appearances last year and didn’t get a hit all year. She knew that we recruited six freshman pitchers this year and so, at the end of the year, whenever we talked, she said, ‘I’m going to work on hitting all summer and I want to come back and be a hitter.’”
She did just that and now leads the 50-win Cobras in seven categories.
“What makes me such a successful offensive threat is my mindset at the plate,” Davis added. “I go up there with the hitting mentality; I find ways to be successful based on knowing my weaknesses and strengths.”
Aside from her offensive numbers, what Davis also provides, though, is leadership in the dugout.
“We have seven sophomores on the team this year and she stands out on the field as a leader,” Dan said. “The freshman group is talented, and the sophomore group has welcomed them with open arms, which has come from Jaidi. They helped them along early in the fall when it’s tough and a lot of that’s come from her.”
Bushur is a 2022 Effingham High School graduate.
She is batting .314 this season with 22 hits, seven RBIs, 22 runs, a .385 on-base percentage and a .486 slugging percentage.
“She’s such an athlete,” Dan said. “She can play anywhere, run the bases, is fast and has a good arm. She’s just fun to have.”
That fun almost didn’t happen, though.
Bushur was undecided about playing in college until midway through her senior year with the Flaming Hearts.
However, that decision turned out to be the right one for the infielder.
“I realized I wasn’t done with the sport,” Bushur said. “I loved it and it was something I thought I couldn’t give up at the time and I’ve been correct. It’s non-stop here; we go year-round and it’s confirmed my initial thought that it’s a lot, but it’s so worth it. I don’t regret it at all.”
Once Bushur made the decision, it turned out to be a full-circle moment for her, too.
She was now reunited with former teammates Davis and Emma Hardiek.
“Jaidi and I in junior high made a state run,” Bushur said. “Emma was on the team, too, but unfortunately, she got hurt during the season. It’s pretty cool and a cool way to end everything.”
Hardiek is a 2021 Effingham High School graduate.
While Hardiek doesn’t get to see the field as much as others, Dan noted that she is just as important to the team.
“Emma missed all last year with an injury,” Dan said. “She didn’t get to hit last year, but she came to practice every day and worked her tail off, worked hard in the weight room, trying to get healthy. We thought she’d get healthy enough to finish the last couple of weeks last year, but she didn’t get released in time. She does whatever’s asked.
“We’re thankful to coach her; she’s an outstanding young lady.”
Probst is a 2022 Teutopolis High School graduate.
Dan couldn’t speak any more highly of Probst’s attitude after suffering an injury in the fall of her senior year that halted her from playing softball for the Lady Shoes.
“Tia is the freshman leader,” Dan said. “It’s really hard to put into perspective what Tia means to our team. She brings that energy, that passion every day. She doesn’t miss practice, doesn’t miss a minute.
“Our team would not be where we are today without her.”
While Probst may be the tallest player in the dugout, she also has the biggest heart.
Dan said she never feels sorry for herself and is the perfect “culture fit” for his program.
“She never feels sorry for herself, doesn’t take a second for granted,” he said. “She enjoys every moment, is outstanding in the classroom, and has greatly impacted our team. We’ve coached a lot of talented teams over the years. The first thing we look for is talent, but the culture fit has made this team so successful.”
What was also successful, though, was the perfectly-placed bunt that she laid down during a game earlier this season that led to a run.
Probst was credited for the RBI on that play and was emotional afterward.
“It was super emotional. Everyone was teary-eyed and it was super cool to see the support,” Probst said.
“We had an opportunity that set up well,” Dan added. “She caught me off-guard and said, ‘Hey, do you think there’s any way I can get in?’ She’s been coming to every game but wasn’t 100 percent dressed, so I said, ‘You’re going to have to have a full uniform on for us to consider it.’ I turned around and saw Jaidi and Tia walk to the bathroom and Jaidi gave Tia her game pants and socks so Tia could get dressed. I went up to her in the on-deck circle and I said, ‘Hey, I know you probably want to swing the bat here, but you’re here just to bunt,’ and she said, ‘That’s all I do; I promise’ and the first pitch, she gets that bunt down.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the whole park.”
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