Last season, Payson's first-ever entry in the Arizona Prep Summer Baseball League was a runaway hit, compiling a 17-1 record.
Triumphantly, those team members went on to form the nucleus of the Longhorn team that won Payson High's first state baseball championship last spring.
At the onset of this summer, PHS coach Teddy Pettet again entered a team in the APSBL. There, he said, the players would have the opportunity to hone their diamond skills for a second successive run at the state crown.
Because of increased competition in the league and a much younger Payson team, the victory tide has turned against the Rim diamond crew.
With two games remaining in regular season play, the squad has been able to build only 4-6 credentials.
Playing with several athletes who have no high school experience, Payson has struggled against varsity-seasoned teams representing Phoenix Christian, Fountain Hills and Tempe.
"We've scrambled to fill our line-up and have had to use a lot of young kids," Pettet said.
Two of the youngsters on the team, Robbie Ochoa and Waylon Pettet, were members of a local Little League all-star team that competed in Flagstaff last week.
Pine's Chad McRae, a regular on the team, will only be an eighth-grade student next school year.
Despite Payson's youth, several of the losses have been hotly contested nail-biters, including a 7-6 setback to Tempe, July 10 in Payson.
"We have lost some close ones," the coach said.
In the loss, Ochoa pounded out three hits.
Most of Payson's success during the campaign has come via the arm of Bryan Zumbro, who was the winning hurler in the Longhorns' state championship win over Cactus Shadows.
When Zumbro is not on the mound, Pettet looks to either Joey Cline, Ky Bradley, Kacy Parker, or his son, Tyler Pettet.
Offensively, the team has been led by the hot bats of brothers Ky and Cade Bradley, the coach said.
If the team can cop twin wins in its final games -- a doubleheader against Maricopa (5 p.m) and Seton (7:30 p.m) last evening, Thursday, at Papago Park in Scottsdale -- the Payson entry could finish among the league's top four and earn a berth in a post-season tournament.
That tournament, Pettet said, would begin next week at a yet to be determined location.