Superior hitting, fielding and pitching highlighted the eighth-grade Mavericks softball match with Show Low Wednesday, providing yet another boost in confidence as the Payson girls move toward closing out their regular season and set their sights on a very promising postseason of play.
Mediocre pitching by Show Low was the most significant key that opened the door for the Payson girls to flex their muscle in base running.
"Their pitchers were slower which provided our girls with lots of time to lead-off down the base lines and make a number of steals in the game," coach Cheri Brennen said.
These girls are rapidly gaining a reputation around the state as a tough team that approaches base running in an aggressive fashion.
But a successful team offense cannot live on base-stealing alone. The Mavs know that and their heavy bats against Show Low proved they had a variety of challenges to offer any opponent. Numerous base hits and an outstanding double by Shelby Bennett kept the Show Low fielders running throughout the game.
The Mavs also were much more consistent, with hitters Hailee Byler and Tanya Davis both 2-4 at the plate.
"The girls were much more selective with pitches and really did an outstanding job at the plate," the coach said.
The Payson girls defense was also dominant with a focus that never allowed a break for Show Low. On the mound, Jessica Coleman had six strikeouts in three innings, which solicited obvious signs of intimidation from Show Low batters.
That paved the way for relief pitcher Autumn Herrera, who celebrated her 14th birthday by pitching her first inning, which included two hot strikeouts. None of the Show Low girls were singing happy birthday.
The defense was not only confined to superior pitching. shortstop Rikki Ray made the play of the week, month and maybe even year when Show Low hit the ball to the pitcher, it ricocheted off her glove toward Ray who had to do the splits to make the catch and a quick throw to 1st for the out.
In the outfield, left-fielder Kristie Ewing made an awesome running catch to end the game, which Payson won 11-4.
The win brings Payson's record to 5-1 in league play and 8-2 overall. Their next game is against Round Valley on the road next Thursday and will be the Mavs last league game of the season.
The following week playoffs begin with home field advantage yet to be announced.
When talking about the team and the challenges they face as the season draws to a close, Brennen remains cautiously optimistic.
"We really don't know anything about the Round Valley team except that we beat them last year in the Round Valley Tourney as seventh graders," she said.
As for postseason play which is only for eighth-grade teams, Brennen said they'll still need to focus on fundamentals.
"I hope we can all pull together and hit hard as a team," she said. "Our base running is coming around and pitching is doing well, but we just need to focus on our hitting a little more."