Although the Maverick eighth-grade girls softball team was defeated in the heated battle of the home opener against Snowflake Tuesday, the coaches and players feel the team's performance shows promising advancement.
The Lady Mavs had their work cut out for them early on, struggling to come back from five errors in the first inning, which brought in the first three runs for Snowflake.
The second inning saw Snowflake's lead-off hitter crush the ball over the fence for a home run, followed by three who walked their way onto the bases, as well as a hit which brought the score to 5-0, where it would remain throughout the rest of the game.
Despite the early struggles, the Payson girls settled down defensively and began to show that they were truly up for the challenge, holding Snowflake scoreless throughout the remainder of the game.
The final score also was not representative of the Mav's pitching, which featured Morgan O'Haver. O'Haver had two strikeouts, six walks and seemed to become faster and more accurate as the game went on, offering frustration for the Snowflake batters.
Coach Cheri Brennan said this game was a true test for Payson.
"Snowflake and Show Low both have great softball programs that produce outstanding teams every year" she said. "They are kind of a ruler that we and other teams can measure our progress by."
And that progress, she said, is something she's optimistic about.
"This is the most talented eighth-grade bunch I've seen in a long time" she said. "We have a great all-around team that includes five good pitchers who really like to throw. Our pitching is probably our biggest strength this year."
O'Haver agreed with the coach, saying there were many things to learn from the match with Snowflake.
"They're kind of intimidating but it helps us to learn better, more dynamic softball," she said. When asked what motivated her to become a pitcher she offered a smile and said, "I just like it cause it's fun .... that's why I've played since I was 8 years old."
The Mavs came into the game after a season-opening 12-6 win against Heber last Thursday. In that match, Payson again struggled early on, but battled their way back with a huge come-from-behind win. The Mavs came alive in the final inning at bat, scoring eight runs, burying Heber.
Jessica Coleman started on the mound for Payson in Heber, and O'Haver came in as reliever in the final inning and lived up to the title striking out the side and clinching the win for Payson.
In seventh-grade girls softball action, the Mavericks played at home on the Rumsey 2 ball field, and lost their second game of the season but not without putting up a great fight.
The Mavs held the lead throughout the first four innings, holding Snowflake scoreless through the first three.
Coach Gary Ritter said, "We fell apart a little in the fifth inning, allowing Snowflake to score three times with the last two being walked in.
"Our girls did an outstanding, awesome job on defense" Ritter said. "We only struck out four times against a very talented pitcher."
The Mavs had the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, but were unable to bring the runners around to score.