AZTEC — Paige Adair has been the top option in the circle for the Aztec softball team the last two years and it’s easy to see why.
So far this season the junior pitcher has been dominant, pitching 61 and 2/3 innings with a 0.45 earned run average and holding opponents to a .150 batting average.
Adding to her dominance, Adair has been extremely accurate in the strike zone, only walking nine and hitting two batters while throwing zero wild pitches.
“As an eighth grader, she was just a pup trying to fit in, but as she’s gone on she’s grown and gotten better,” Aztec head coach Roy Johnson said of Adair. “The best thing I can say about her is that she’s never satisfied. She knows she has room to get better and improve.”
In her most recent performance, Adair pitched back-to-back complete games against Miyamura in Aztec's District 1-5A opener on Friday. Over 15 innings of work, Adair gave up just seven hits and struck out 30 of the 45 batters she faced, bringing her strikeout total to 113 this season.
“It’s district. I love it. I love the competition and the atmosphere that district brings,” Adair said. “I have to win every game, and if I’m not doing my job at the plate, I tell my team, ‘I’m going to go out there and shut them out for you guys. You guys go score.’”
And that’s exactly what she did against Miyamura.
Aztec slipped by with a 1-0 win in eight innings during the first game, then rolled 8-0 in the second game while Adair was a combined 1 for 7 at the plate.
Key factors in Adair’s success in the circle has been that she effectively throws four pitches — a curveball, drop ball, rise ball and changeup — for strikes, and she has the strength and endurance to pitch at a high level for many innings.
“One of our assistant coaches (Sherry Pixton) really takes care of us in the dugout. I could go as many games as (coach Johnson) wants me to go,” Adair said.
But Adair brings a lot more to the Lady Tigers than a strong arm.
This season she is batting .455 with 21 runs batted in and a team-high 10 doubles.
The Lady Tigers are poised for another deep run at the state tournament next month with the team looking for redemption.
Last year’s tournament ended for Aztec when the final out of their 6-5 loss in extra innings to Centennial came when the umpire ruled Ashlyn Bradley did not touch home plate. It was a call that left Adair and the Lady Tigers in shock.
“I don’t remember feeling anything,” Adair said. “I was on deck and I turned around and remember seeing Centennial coming out of their dugout cheering. I thought, ‘What is going on?’ and I dropped everything. It felt like we got gypped for sure. We deserved that state tournament. We worked out butts off. It sucked.”
This season the Lady Tigers are using that loss as motivation, and both Adair and Johnson said that this year the girls’ have a willingness to help each other attain a higher playing level.
Through this process, Adair said the Lady Tigers’ bond has grown stronger.
But while last year’s shortcomings are powerful motivation for Aztec, the team has done well not to dwell on them, instead looking forward to a chance to be better than ever.
“This game is made to make you fail, and what we try to preach to the girls is not to get caught up in that,” Johnson said. “If you have a bad game, you have to go forward. Our deal this year is ‘go forward.’ You have to press on and go forward. Don’t look at what happened, look at what you can do to get better and help the team forward.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.
A closer look: Paige Adair
1. Favorite food?
2. Favorite movie?
“Friday Night Lights.”
3. Favorite subject in school?
4. Least favorite subject in school?
5. Do you play any other sports?
“Soccer and I snowboard.”
6. What’s your biggest fear?
“I don’t know. I don’t think I have any fears.”
7. Favorite superhero?
8. What’s a better feeling: scoring a goal in soccer, hitting a home run or pitching a shutout?
“Both hitting a home run and pitching a shutout. There’s no better feeling than both of them.”
9. If you won $1 million, what’s the first thing you’d do?
“Give it to my parents.”
10. Do you have any pregame rituals?
“I do my hair the same.”