Like their counterparts on the PHS baseball diamond, the Lady Longhorn softball nine is facing a crucial stretch of East regional clashes.
The trio of games that could make or break the Lady Horns playoff dreams begins today (Tuesday) in Holbrook against the homestanding Roadrunners.
Action continues Wednesday on the PHS diamond against longtime East nemesis Blue Ridge.
The week of action wraps up Friday when the powerful Snowflake Lobos visit the PHS softball diamond.
Game time for all three is 3:30 p.m.
If the Lady Horns have a secret weapon to throw at one or all of the upcoming foes, it could be sophomore pitching star Rachel Ray.
Because she saw only limited varsity pitching duty as a freshman, most East opponents have not yet had to face her.
But Ray is no stranger to local softball fans. Since she played years ago in local youth softball leagues and on the Rim Country Middle School teams, she's been awing spectators and opponents with her talents.
In pitching the Lady Horns to a 10-1 victory March 15 over Sedona Red Rock, Ray hurled her way to the triumph.
In a 5-4 win over Round Valley Saturday, Ray improved her record to 6-3 with yet another pitching win.
One of the youngster's hard-luck defeats was a 3-0 loss to a talented Lake Havasu team during the Pepsi-Albertsons Softball Classic contested March 8-10. Although she absorbed the defeat, coach Will Dunman credited her for outstanding pitching efforts.
If Ray gets the starting nod tomorrow from Dunman, she'll have the opportunity to fatten her win total even further.
Also in the Horn pitching arsenal is senior Tiffany Lubken who only recently accepted a scholarship offer to play at a Valley junior college.
Another pitcher Dunman can call upon is freshman Brenna Zumbro. At the Pepsi-Albertsons Tournament, the rookie hurler picked up her first varsity pitching victory in a 4-2 win over River Valley.
With the win, she demonstrated she could have the tools to pitch on varsity, despite her young age.
Offensively, the Lady Horns will rely on a strong nucleus of hitters to provide the firepower necessary for victories this week.
Among those contributors have been Raeann Burba, Staci Scholl, Brandi Waugh, Lee Ann Owens, Brooke McRae and Jennifer Plumb.
In Saturday's one-run victory over Round Valley, both Owens and McRae were two-for-four. McRae also had two RBIs.
Defensively, the Lady Horns have turned in several impressive efforts during the early season. In the win over River Valley, the Lady Horns committed just two errors in five full innings. Against Lake Havasu, Payson played error-free ball.
For the Lady Horns to remain in the thick of the East pennant chase this week, pitching, hitting and defensive efforts must be turned up a notch.