Coaches Pick Zumbro All-State

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Only weeks ago at Peoria Sports Complex, Payson High School's state championship baseball team capped a 23-9 season with a convincing 23-11 win over top-ranked and unbeaten Cactus Shadows.

The victory -- which ended Cactus' 35-game winning streak -- has since been titled the biggest upset of the 1999 prep baseball season. It also produced Payson High's first-ever state baseball title.

But even that Herculean feat didn't earn individual Longhorns much respect when members of the Arizona Baseball Coaches' Association gathered to select the Class 3A All-State team.

Although PHS coach Ted Pettet was selected "Coach of the Year," only one Payson player, Bryan Zumbro, was chosen to either the first or second team.

Zumbro, a first-teamer, expressed delight that he was honored but said he couldn't understand why the coaches' association members excluded his teammates.

"That's kind of strange when you consider what we accomplished," he said.

Pettet, himself a member of the ABCA, only shrugged his shoulders in disbelief.

All-around player
Zumbro, the Horns' ace pitcher all season long, was chosen to the All-State team as a utility player. In addition to his pitching chores, Zumbro also played third base and first base for the PHS squad.

As a hurler, he finished with a team-best 12-4 record and a 3.06 ERA. One of his losses was a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat to Globe, in which he gave up only two hits.

In 80 innings, he faced 350 batters, struck out 119, walked 29 and had two saves. He gave up 74 hits and 57 runs.

The Horns' next best pitcher, according to statistics, was Josh McRae, who finished with a 4-1 record and an ERA of 7.00

As the go-to guy in the line-up, Zumbro was never better than in the Horns' four-game state championship run. Over the course of two weekends, Pettet carefully manipulated his time on the mound, allowing Zumbro to become the winning pitcher in all four tournament decisions despite the fact rules restrict pitchers to 11 innings in two days.

Had it not been for the mound exploits of Zumbro, the Horns might still be scratching for their first state title.

And Zumbro did it all without a blazing Randy Johnson-like fastball or a sweeping curve which baffles opposing hitters.

By choosing, positioning and framing his pitches carefully, Zumbro was able to force opponents into hitting lazy ground balls or easy pop-ups which PHS defenders more often than not turned into outs.

Zumbro also excelled at the plate with a team-leading .500 batting average.

Among his 48 hits were 17 doubles and 11 home runs, which tied him for the team lead with Jeremy Reynolds.

Zumbro's slugging percentage was a whopping 1.021.

All-Division
While the Horns consider themselves slighted in the All-State voting, that wasn't the case when Central coaches gathered at the conclusion of the regular season to select the All-Division teams.

Voted to the first team were Zumbro and Brian Cork. Representing Payson on the second team were Hunter Walden and Jeremy Reynolds.

Most of the season, Cork held down one of the outfield slots for the Longhorns and was a steady defensive player with good range.

Offensively, Cork -- the lead-off hitter -- was a sparkplug for Payson, finishing with a .456 average that included team-highs of 114 appearances at the plate, 101 total bases, 13 stolen bases and 52 runs scored. He also contributed 41 RBIs and showed good power with nine home runs.

Also an outfielder, Reynolds was one of the most prolific hitters in the Central Division, posting a .495 average. Playing in 30 of the Horns' 32 games, he finished with 46 runs scored, 44 RBIs and 94 total bases.

In addition to tying Zumbro for the team lead in home runs, Reynolds swatted 10 doubles.

Last season Walden was the toast of the prep baseball world when he set a new state home run record of 17. However, this year a knee injury suffered during basketball season slowed his progress.

While Walden was rehabilitating himself from surgery, Tempe Desert Vista's Corey Myers was erasing the Payson senior's record, ripping 22 circuit blasts over the course of the campaign.

Despite wearing a cumbersome knee brace the entire season, Walden turned in commendable efforts as a hitter (.462 batting average, 10 home runs and seven doubles) and first baseman.

Also, Pettet used Walden extensively as a relief pitcher in the state tournament to spell Zumbro. Walden finished 1-0 with three saves and a 2.10 ERA. In facing 60 batters over the course of 13 1/3 innings, he allowed only six runs and nine hits.

Others chosen
On the All-Central team along with the four Payson players were an eye-popping nine athletes representing divisional champ Cactus Shadows.

Among those on the first team was hurler Casey Huston, whom the Payson hitters shelled in the state championship game that was ended on the 10-run rule.

Fountain Hills had four players chosen and Globe three.

Fountain, Globe and Payson tied for third in the regular Central season with 8-4 records. Globe and Payson won a three-way playoff for the right to advance to state.

Where now?
With the graduation of the class of 1999, the Horns lost five starters, including Marc Bennett, Josh McRae, Walden, Reynolds and Cork.

The remaining underclassmen will prep for next season in the Arizona Summer High School League, which begins play next week.

Zumbro said he was looking forward to the opportunities of extended play. "We have to go out and get ready to defend our championship -- help earn Payson the reputation as a baseball town," he said.

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