A 4-2 loss to Flagstaff Coconino in a losers' bracket game ended the Payson Little League Major Division All-Star team's quest for an Arizona Area One Tournament Championship and a berth in the district finals.
Battling in the double-elimination tournament held in Page this week, the loss to Coconino was Payson's second of the three-day fray.
In an opening-round game, the Rim country stars lost a 7-6 heartbreaker to Flagstaff. Sandwiched between the two losses was a 12-2 triumph over Mt. Eldon.
In the opening-round loss to Flagstaff, Jerry Paul received the starting pitching nod from all-star coach Jim Aguilar and hurled five innings, recording eight strike-outs and two walks. He gave up 10 hits.
Flagstaff wasted no time lighting up the scoreboard, jumping out to a 3-0 lead caused by two crucial errors committed by the Payson defense.
After scoring a single run in the second and five more in the third, Payson led 6-3.
Flagstaff came roaring back with three runs in the fifth, to dead-knot the contest 6-6.
In the sixth and final frame, Payson's defense again turned porous, allowing the winning run to score on an infield error.
Against Mt. Eldon, Pete Hargas pitched Payson to the victory, hurling the entire four innings, giving up only five hits while striking out eight and walking just three. Umpires ended the game on the 10-run rule.
Aguilar said the loss to Flagstaff was the best game of the tournament. But it was not without its controversies.
In the third inning, a Coconino hitter lifted a flyball into left field, which was chased by a Payson outfielder who collided with a makeshift fence.
At first, umpires ruled it a ground-rule double, but after a Coconino protest, the decision was reversed and a home run was signaled. Payson players, coaches and fans vehemently disagreed but the home run stood.
In the sixth, with Payson leading 2-1, controversy again reared its head after Payson had apparently recorded a double play to end the inning and a Coconino scoring threat. However, the double play was disallowed when one of the runners was ruled safe.
"It was clearly an out," Aguilar said.
The next batter lifted a home run out of the park that propelled Coco to the two-run come-from-behind victory.
Following the tournament, Aguilar cited Domic Piazza (nine for 10) and Matt Levac (six-for-nine) for their hitting exploits.
Catcher Tyler Williams drew praise for his defensive excellence.
"He had an awesome game," Aguilar said; "very little got by him."
The members of the all-star team were selected at the conclusion of the regular season in a voting of coaches.