Horns Battle To Keep 4th Ranking

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Battling an agonizingly sore neck that kept his head cocked to one side as if he was peering around a corner, Payson High School coach Teddy Pettet had a tilted view of his squad's two victories and one loss in last week's play.

By Sunday, the coach's condition had improved and he was primed to lead his Longhorns into a match today against Sedona and Thursday against Santa Cruz. Game time for both away games is 3:30 p.m.

With an 9-4 record overall and a 2-1 Central Division slate, the Horns will travel to Sedona with a state fourth-place ranking.

That ranking, however, could be in jeopardy when the latest coaches' poll is released later this week. A Horn demise might occur because the team dropped a 5-3 decision to Central rival Fountain Hills Friday afternoon.

However, a pair of wins during the three-game set -- 14-4 over Mogollon Wednesday and 13-11 over Holbrook Saturday -- could be enough to convince state coaches the Longhorns are worthy of the ranking.

The state ranking, Pettet said, is a nice gesture, but the Longhorns should be more concerned about positioning themselves for a berth in the state tournament May 14 and 15.

"We have to remember that only three teams qualify for the playoffs from our division this year," he said. "We cannot afford to have any letdowns during division play. Each division game could be the difference in making the (state) playoffs."

Last season, four teams from the Central qualified for the state tournament but this season the Central sends only three and the East receives four.

Realizing the encounter against the West's Sedona might impress state pollsters but mean absolutely zero in the team's quest for a top-three Central finish, Pettet will save his two ace pitchers, Bryan Zumbro and Josh McRae, for the divisional fray against Santa Cruz.

Either his sophomore son Tyler Pettet or senior Jason Carroll will be tagged for hurling duties today in Sedona.

Last week
Should young Pettet -- who's seen a good deal of jayvee action this season -- get the starting nod, he'll have the benefit of the varsity pitching experience he picked up in the win over Holbrook.

Pettet was credited with the victory after opening on the mound and going 3 2/3 innings before giving way to relief help from Zumbro, who picked up a save.

The Payson hurlers had all the offensive help they needed for a triumph from the bats of Cade Bradley, Jeremy Reynolds and Brian Cork.

Both Bradley and Reynolds were 3-for-4 at the plate. Cork had a home run.

In the loss to Fountain Hills, the Horns were without the services of starting catcher Marc Bennett who was out of state on a football recruiting visit.

Without Bennett behind the plate, Pettet opted to replace him with Cory McRae and start Josh McRae on the mound.

Josh McRae hurled four full innings before departing in the top of the fifth when he gave up a leadoff walk and a single.

With the score dead-knotted at 3-3, fireman's help came from Zumbro, who struck out the Falcon's number-three hitter and set down the next on a routine pop up.

However, a wild pitch advanced the Falcon runners into scoring position at second and third. Only minutes later, another offering by Zumbro was off target, which forced Josh McRae to block the pitch into the dirt.

At third, the Fountain Hills base runner mistakenly thought he could score on the miscue and was off and running. Alertly, the Payson catcher recovered the errant pitch and ended the inning tagging the Falcon runner.

"Nice play -- got us out of the inning," coach Pettet said.

The heroics were all for naught, however, when, in the bottom of the sixth, a Payson infield error and a balk contributed to two Fountain Hills runs. The scores eventually proved to be the winning runs when the Longhorns couldn't muster a rally in the top of the seventh and final frame.

In swatting just seven hits off Falcon ace Mike Vargo and reliever Adrian Purdy, the once red-hot Payson bats were strangely silent. About the only cause for Horns blasting occurred in the top of the third when Reynolds lifted a solo home run about 360 feet over the center field fence.

"We didn't hit the ball like we have been," coach Pettet said.

Mustangs corralled
The victory over Class 2A Mogollon in Heber-Overgaard gave the Payson coach opportunity to play most of his line-up. The entire roster of 14 saw action in a contest that was ended after five innings on the 10-run rule.

Carroll picked up the pitching win lasting four innings. During his stint, he allowed three runs, seven hits and one walk.

Only one of the runs, however, was earned.

Joey Klein pitched one inning of relief and allowed one run off two hits and two walks.

Lead-off hitter Brian Cork was tops on the Horn hit parade with a 3-for-4 performance that included a home run, two singles, three RBIs and one run scored.

In going 2-for-2 at the plate, McRae had a home run, single and scored four times.

Zumbro lifted a home run and double in three appearances.

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