Don't ask Payson High baseball coach Teddy Pettet to sort through the East region standings without expecting a tart answer.
"It's a mess," he said.
After falling to Snowflake 4-2 Thursday in a rare night game under the Payson High School field lights, the Horns now stand 6-4 in the East region standings and are tied with the Round Valley Elks for the fourth and final state playoff berth.
For Payson to earn a seed into the tournament and defend the 3A state championship earned last spring, the Longhorns desperately need a pair of victories in two regular season-ending encounters.
But twin triumphs could be a tough row to hoe, since both are road games against topnotch East teams.
Those games will be contested today (Tuesday) in Lakeside against Blue Ridge and Friday in Show Low. Game time for both is 4 p.m.
With an 8-3 East record, Show Low is dead-knotted for the region lead with Snowflake. Both teams are assured of berths into the state tournament.
The region's remaining two state seeds will go to either Round Valley, Blue Ridge (7-3) or Payson -- depending upon the outcome of this week's games.
Lowly Alchesay and Holbrook are eliminated from the playoff chase.
If there is any good news in the Horns' dilemma, it is that they control their own fate. Win two and Payson goes to state. Anything less and the Longhorns will be teetering on the edge of elimination from the big show.
"There's no doubt, it's up to us," Pettet said.
The stretch run
Since mid-season, almost every clash the Rim diamond men have played has been crucial to playoff aspirations.
In a 6-0 win April 18 over homestanding Holbrook, the Horns did themselves a huge post-season favor, only to have it erased two days later in the loss to the Lobos.
Against Holbrook, Tyler Pettet earned the starting nod and picked up the victory, improving his record to 3-2. In hurling six innings, he faced 23 batters, allowed four hits, struck out five and walked two.
Senior Bryan Zumbro relieved Pettet in the seventh and was credited with the save.
In addition to his pitching prowess, Tyler Pettet swung the big bat against Holbrook, finishing with three singles and two runs scored in four appearances at the plate.
Ky Bradley was two-for-three and Justin Kaufmann two-for-four.
Defensively, the Horns were rock solid, committing just one error.
Against Snowflake, Zumbro (3-5) opened on the hill and was ticketed with the loss despite pitching a respectable game. During his seven-inning stint, he struck out 13 Lobo hitters and didn't allow a bases on ball. His downfall was a handful of pitching mistakes -- mostly hanging curve balls -- that Snowflake turned into two home runs, two doubles and three singles.
Snowflake countered with their hurling ace Michael Abbott who gave up but three singles -- one each by Nick Brunson, Cade Bradley and Zumbro.
The Horns enter the final week of play boasting a solid hitting corps led by sophomore Ky Bradley, who sports a team leading .433 average.
Other stars at the plate include Zumbro (.433), Cade Bradley (.433), Kaufmann (.385), Scotty Garduno (.382) and Brunson (.371).
Zumbro has been the power-hitter with five home runs, two triples and six doubles.
As a team, the Horns are hitting at a .367 clip.
Pitching chores have fallen mostly on the shoulders of Zumbro who has appeared in 12 games and sports a 2.08 ERA.
In eight pitching appearances, Tyler Pettet boasts a very creditable ERA of 1.15. Kacy Parker and Ky Bradley are both 2-2 on the hill.