Central Finals Left Up To A Coin Toss

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Following more than three months of regular season play and 12 Central games, the division's three seeds to the Class 3A state tournament have not yet been determined.

With a crucial 7-4 victory over Coolidge Friday afternoon in Payson, the Longhorns wrapped up the Central campaign with an 8-4 record. The mark ties the Horns for second and third with Fountain Hills and Globe.

The method used to untangle the dead-knot and decide which two of the three will advance to the state tournament, when it tips off May 7, was still being debated Monday morning.

Horn coach Teddy Pettet said it was his understanding a mini-playoff would be held today, Tuesday, at a neutral site, possibly in Apache Junction or Cave Creek Cactus Shadows.

A coin flip, he said, would determine which two teams would play one another in an opening game. All contests in the playoff would be five innings.

"I can't imagine us playing more (innings) than that," Pettet said.

The winner of the first game would receive the second seed to state behind Central champion Cactus Shadows.

The loser of the first playoff game would then play the team that had earlier earned the coin flip bye. The winner of that game would receive the third and final state berth. For the loser, the season would be over.

Pettet said he wasn't much concerned where his team fell into the playoff scheme because no scenario was more advantageous than the other.

Besides, he said, "I've never won a coin flip in the 11 years I've been coaching here."

Several years ago when the Horns were a member of the East division and had finished tied for second place, Pettet lost two consecutive coin flips.

Instead of entering the state tournament as a two seed, the Horns fell to fourth.

"That's just my coin flip luck," Pettet said.

Beat Coolidge
The Longhorns would not be in a position for a tie-breaking flip had it not been for Friday's win over Coolidge.

After holding the Bears scoreless in the top of the first, Payson went on a scoring rampage on back-to-back home runs from Bryan Zumbro, Hunter Walden and Jeremy Reynolds. The round trippers propelled the Horns out to a 4-0 lead.

With Zumbro (7-4), the team's pitching ace, on the mound, the Horns breezed through the first two frames effortlessly.

But in the top of the third, the Bears rallied to close the Payson lead to 4-3.

"It started to come apart," Pettet said.

The score remained close until the bottom of the sixth when the Horns tallied three insurance runs to nail down the victory and insure the team of at least a shot at a berth in the state tournament.

Since spring drills opened in February, the goal has been to advance to the state where the team can showcase its talent in a professional baseball facility -- Mariner field in the Peoria Sports Complex

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