Horns' Win 'Ugly' Over Chino Valley

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If beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, Longhorns baseball coach Teddy Pettet didn't spot much elegance in his team's 19-18 season-opening win Tuesday afternoon over visiting Chino Valley.

Following the victory, an exasperated Pettet said, "This was one of the ugliest games I've ever been associated with. There were quite a few errors on both teams and each team's pitching was hot and cold."

Despite his frustrations, Pettet said he's happy to chalk up a "W" in the victory column. "We probably didn't deserve it, but we'll take the win," he said.

While it might not been a game of splendor, it was a contest that gave the fans their money's worth, due to sure sheer suspense of not knowing which team would blow a lead or commit another crucial error.

After seven full innings and the game tied at 16-16, both teams went scoreless in the eighth.

Chino rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth and were only three outs away from returning home with a victory.

In the Horns' last-gasp effort -- the bottom of the ninth -- Jeremy Reynolds got the Horn comeback express on track with a ringing single which ricocheted off the green monster in centerfield.

But why was such a booming blast only a single? "Because he did not run it out," Pettet said. "He apparently thought it was a home run."

After both Josh McRae and Scotty Garduno flied out to right field, leaving Reynolds stranded on the base paths, Horn hopes were dimmed considerably.

But senior Ty Hulbert responded with a sharp single to left. Nick Brunson, batting ninth in the order, then walked to load up the bases.

With everyone in attendance on their feet, lead-off hitter Brian Cork lifted a fly ball to right. At first, the harmless fly appeared to be a sure out, but fell behind the outfielder.

The outfielder, Pettet said, "misjudged (the ball), then got turned around, stumbled and helplessly watched the ball hit 10 feet fair over his shoulder."

Both Reynolds and Hulbert crossed home plate, and Brunson, Pettet said, "was running hard and scored from first base to end the game and what looked like a sure loss (for Payson)."

The game opened with Payson jumping ahead 4-2 at the end of one inning. In the bottom of the third of the seesaw affair, the Horns scored three to take a 7-2 lead. But in the top of the fourth, Chino rallied to pull within two.

Only a pair of innings later -- in the top of the sixth --CV pounded Horn reliever Jason Carroll for six runs and led 10-9.

But as was the case all game long, the cushion didn't hold up long.

In the bottom of the frame, the Horns banged out five consecutive hits and scored seven runs.

Leading 16-11 at the end of six innings, the Horns apparently decided they'd had enough of prosperity and gave away five runs in the top of the seventh to allow CV to tie the contest at a pair of 16s. The big play of the inning occurred when Longhorn pitcher Bryan Zumbro, who had started the game and then returned in relief, struck out a batter with the bases loaded.

Josh McRae, in relief, was credited with the pitching win.

Reynolds, Cork and Marc Bennett led the Horns' offense with three hits each. Cork was the RBI kingpin with six. Cade Bradley and McRae finished with two hits each.

The Horns return to action at 3:30 p.m. March 9 in Show Low.

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