For Lady Longhorn junior varsity players Jennifer Plumb, LeeAnn Owens and others, an eye-popping 23-1 record was only a fringe benefit of the recently concluded high school softball season.
"(The season) was fun and we won, but we also learned a lot -- things that will help us (in later years)," Plumb said.
Owens agreed. "The coaches (Katie Tenney and Will Dunham) were great and they taught us so much. We were really lucky to have such good coaches."
In addition to stellar coaching, a key to the successful outcome of the campaign was a close knit group of girls who have played together for a long time.
Most of the freshmen team members were on the 1998 Rim Country Middle School eighth-grade squad that won the regular season White Mountain League Championship.
The girls also toiled along side one another for several years in Town of Payson youth leagues. Some picked up even more valuable experience on a Rim country all-star team that played two years in the Grand Canyon State Games.
Throughout the past season, Owens and Plumb say, most every player uniquely contributed to the overall team effort when called upon.
Brooke McRae was nicknamed "Powerhouse" for her strong hitting. Centerfielder Tanya Heglie was known for a powerful arm that allowed her to easily throw to home plate from deep in the outfield.
"She has a gun," Owens said.
Tracy Connolly was a top notch jayvee pitcher who kept the Lady Longhorns in contention with her mound offerings. Plumb, a varsity basketball letter winner, turned into a utility player who could hold down the shortstop position or pitch.
Brandi Waugh excelled at most every phase of the game and Brittany Boyes was an effective long-ball hitter.
In a season-ending game against Chino Valley -- after recovering from a leg injury that slowed her in early season -- Boyes ripped a line shot that hit the centerfield fence on the high school field.
"She really hit it, as far as anyone on our team has," Plumb said.
Owens, who picked up the nickname "Bam-Bam" for her rock-em'-sock-em' play in basketball, was the team's first baseman and lead-off hitter.
In fashioning the sterling credentials, the 15-member team -- of whom four were sophomores and the remainder first-year players -- competed on both the freshman and jayvee levels.
The only loss, which occurred on the junior varsity level, was a 7-1 setback to Globe April 16 at Rumsey Park.
"We just didn't hit," Owens said.
"And everything they hit went to where we (the defenders) weren't," Plumb added.
Only one month after the loss, the Lady Horns beat the Tigers 24-20 in Globe.
"That shows you (the loss) was just one of those days," Owens said.
Most victories for the spirited jayvee crew were convincing triumphs that ended on the 10-run rule. Sometimes lopsided contests were called as early as the third inning.
"We only played two seven-inning games the whole season," Plumb said.
With the jayvee season at an end, most of the players will turn their attention to town summer league play with one eye focused on someday competing on the varsity level.
"If we stick together," Owens said, "I think we can be a real good (varsity) team.
Plumb seconded her teammate's opinion. "I think we'll be ready (for varsity)."
Tenney, a 1993 Payson High graduate who was a darn good softball player in her own right, agreed, "This is just a great group of girls; they have so much talent and such a strong work ethic."
After a short pause, the coach made a prediction. "I think if they stick together and keep the same good attitudes, they'll be state champions."