Arizona State University is most always associated with the City of Tempe where 40,000-plus students attend classes on the main campus.
But for about 20 local fledgling softball players, the home of the ASU-sponsored instructional camp will be at Flagstaff's Thorpe Park, "because it's cool there ... too hot in Tempe," Lady Longhorn softball coach Will Dunman said.
Dunman, who was appointed head coach earlier this summer after Greg Larkins retired, will escort the players to Flagstaff July 12, 13 and 14.
There, the team will participate in drills and strategy sessions designed to improve their skill levels and understanding of the game for the 2000 season.
With Payson moving from the Central to the East Division next school year, the Lady Longhorns will have to step up their efforts to battle on even terms with perennial softball powers Show Low and Snowflake.
"It'll be tougher over there (in the East)," Dunman said.
Since he was appointed head coach, Dunman has taken a proactive off-season approach with the prospective players in hopes of fielding a competitive Horn squad next season.
In addition to almost daily practice sessions, Dunman put together a team of varsity hopefuls to compete in the Grand Canyon State Games last week at Papago Park in Scottsdale.
Battling stiff competition -- most of which were club teams playing year-round schedules -- the Rim country squad, Cool Breeze, finished with a 3-1 record and only a single game short of earning a GC medal.
In tournament opening pool play, the Breeze hammered Bagdad Crush, 7-0, then slipped past the Gators, 6-3. Third game action saw Payson 10-run-rule the Tolleson Red Heat, 13-1.
With an unblemished mark, Payson entered a follow-up single elimination tournament as a number-one seed, only to be nipped by the Verde Valley Blaze 4-3.
In the loss, Brenna Zumbro -- who will be an eighth-grader next school year -- started on the mound but was replaced by Sidney Swartwood.
Unable to mount any type of offensive attack early in the game, Payson fell behind, 3-0.
In the top of the fifth, Cool Breeze rallied to dead-knot the encounter, 3-3.
After Verde Valley forged ahead by a single run on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the inning, the 1 1/2-hour time limit expired, ending the Breeze's hopes for another at-bat.
Playing in the tournament offered the Breeze team members a chance to challenge an opponent they might not otherwise face in the course of regular prep season. "It was a great experience," Dunman said. "We plan to do more of it (in the future)."
In breezing through the seven-run win over Bagdad, Swartwood, who'll be a senior at PHS next year, hurled the entire seven innings and was credited with the win.
The youngster turned in probably the most impressive pitching performance of her career, holding Bagdad to just two hits.
In previous years, Swartwood has experienced problems with her control. That wasn't the case against the Crush --58 of the 86 pitches she uncorked were for strikes. Also, she didn't walk a batter and struck out 12.
The victory, Dunman said, should serve as a confidence builder for Swartwood as she enters next season."She was in control the whole way," he said. "Now she knows she is capable of doing that."
In addition to her pitching prowess, Swartwood was one of the team's leading hitters, finishing three-for-four at the plate. Ashley Grubbs had three hits and scored three runs.
In the three-run taming of the Gators, Zumbro picked up the win, hurling a two-hitter.
Staci Scholl and Ashley Grubbs both were a perfect two-for-two at the plate.
Against the Red Heat, Rachel Ray was credited with the win after giving up 10 hits and striking out seven.
Again Swartwood swung the hot bat, swatting two hits in three appearances. She also scored four runs.
Brandi Waugh was two-for-two.
Following the team's return to the Rim country, a grateful Dunman said he and the girls were extremely thankful to the Payson Elks Club who purchased new uniforms for the Breeze. "We will use those for years to come," he said.
Also the coach thanked the parents who traveled to Scottsdale to cheer the team on and also pooled money for new batting helmets.
"Everybody got behind us," the coach said.