The lack of a single run denied Payson its first-ever berth in the 9- to 10-year-old Arizona State Little League championships.
By virtue of a 5-4 loss to Page Saturday morning in Page, the Payson Little League All-Stars were eliminated from the District tournament.
Page's victory sent the northland team to the state championships to begin today (Monday) in Winslow.
Although the loss to Page was a bitter defeat, Payson coach Bob Halenar said the team had a great run through the season-ending tournament.
"These little guys played well," he said. "It was really exciting we were one game away from going to Winslow (for the state tournament)."
The team, which was made up of all-stars selected by coaches at the conclusion of the regular season, began its long tournament run July 5 at the eight-team Area One tournament in Page.
After whipping Flagstaff 13-7 in the opening round, the Payson stars had to wait out a rain delay the following day. Action resumed Saturday with Payson whipping Winslow 22-0.
After losing to Page 5-4 in the championship round, Payson fell into a loser's bracket do-or-die game against Flagstaff Continental.
A 13-5 victory over the Continental crew sent Payson into the District Tournament as a two-seed behind top-ranked Page.
Also in the District shoot-out was Area Two's No. 1 seeded Snowflake and runner-up Show Low.
July 11 in the opening round, Payson blasted Snowflake 15-3. The next day, the Rim diamond crew ran past Show Low, 12-5.
Those two wins were special for Halenar, a former Payson High School sports star.
"You always like to beat those guys," he said.
A 8-2 victory over Page the next day set up a championship finale Saturday morning once again against Page.
Although Payson (3-0 in Area play) had beaten Page (2-1 in Area), the Rim team's loss to Page in the earlier District One fray, meant a championship finale had to be contested.
That format, quite unusual in baseball playoffs, had Halenar scratching his head.
In the gold-medal showdown, Payson could never muster the come-from-behind firepower necessary to overcome Page's early lead.
Local Little League president Ron Miller theorized the long stay in Page, almost 10 days in all, could have taken its toll on the young players.
Halenar agreed, saying the jaunt North was tough and fatigue could have played a role in several of the playing mistakes the team made in the championship game.
Although the local stars came up just short of a berth in the state tournament, the team turned in one of the best showings ever by a Rim country Little League All-Star team.
In addition to Halenar, the all-stars were coached by Danny Savage and Pat Haynes.
On the all-star team were Logan Ferkol, Dylan Flannery, Clint Sparks, Dylan Hartsell, Hunter Haynes, Dakota Marshall, Trae Dunman, Cody York, Ridge Halenar, Tyler Savage, Ryan Williams and Max Siverson.
In Senior League (14-16 years) All-Star action in Payson, Page emerged from the week-long fray with a 3-1 record and a number-one seed into the District tournament. Page will play Blue Ridge today in the opening round.
The Payson star team, coached by Tom Belcher, finished with a 1-2 record. Payson's tournament stay included a 12-10 win over Winslow but also a 15-7 loss to Page and a 22-0 loss to Continental.
In Major (12-13 years) League Tournament play in Winslow, Payson whipped Mount Elden, but was later eliminated after losses to Flagstaff Coconino and Flagstaff Continental.