A pair of home runs by Brian Cork, a three-run circuit blast from Jeremy Reynolds and Bryan Zumbro's yeoman pitching performance paced the Longhorn baseball team to a crucial 15-4 win over Eloy Santa Cruz, Tuesday afternoon on PHS diamond.
With the triumph, the Horns improved their record to 7-3 and remain entrenched in second place in the division standings.
All eyes will focus on season-ending games Friday afternoon which will decide the Central's three seeds into the Class 3A state tournament.
Unbeaten and top-ranked Cactus Shadows (11-0 in the division) is assured of the Central's top seed, but the remaining two berths are up for grabs. Fountain Hills (7-4), Globe (7-4) and Payson are vying for the two berths, but the three will have to wait until the outcome of Friday's games to learn which two will advance to state and which team's season will come to a screeching halt.
Globe upped the suspense in the Central race by upsetting state seventh-ranked Fountain Hills 9-7 Tuesday afternoon.
Payson split its home-and-away two-game set with both Fountain Hills and Globe, rendering the race for second and third in the Central a tossup.
If the proper scenario unfolds, a three-way tie for the two playoff spots is possible. If that happens, a playoff would be held May 4 at a neutral site.
In Tuesday's win over Eloy Santa Cruz, Horn coach Teddy Pettet opted to go with his pitching ace, Zumbro, who responded by giving up only four hits and two earned runs in four complete innings.
Leading 15-2 in the top of the fifth and the game only three outs away from being terminated on the 10-run rule, Pettet replaced Zumbro with senior right-hander Hunter Walden.
Walden, still recovering from last month's knee surgery, didn't show any ill effects of the injury, but did wear a specially fitted leg brace.
During his one-inning stint, Walden gave up two runs but was able to maintain the Horns, 10-run cushion.
At the end of 5 1/2, the game was called by the officials.
The Longhorns wrap up regular season play today, Friday, against the Coolidge Bears in Coolidge. Game time is 3 p.m.
If the Horns can hold onto at least a three-seed, the team would open state play at 1 p.m. May 7 against the West Division champions on Mariner's Field at the Peoria Sports Complex.