The Payson High School softball team lost a close one, 4-3, to Show Low Tuesday.
The pitching battle between the Lady Horns' Rachel Ray and the Cougars' Bobbi Jo Merrill attributed to the low scoring game.
Ray and Merrill have both been tutored in the off season by one of the nation's premier pitching coaches, Ron Bouldin of Scottsdale.
Show Low led off the top of the inning with their first two batters bunting against Ray's 60 mph fastball. The first batter reached first base safely on a throwing error by Payson third baseman, Britney Boyes, that pulled first baseman LeeAnn Owens off the bag.
Merrill followed with a base-hit bunt and eventually scored on a base hit to right field by the Cougars' clean-up hitter.
Show Low scored its second run in the third inning off another base-hit bunt followed by a double to right center field, once again by their No. 4 batter.
Payson remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Brandi Waugh fouled off five pitches and then with a full-count, drove the ball to right center field for a stand-up triple. Waugh scored the Lady Horns' first run on a pass by the Cougar catcher.
Brooke McRae and Boyes followed with base-hit singles and scored after Trista Carlton slapped down a bunt to Merrill who opted for a force play at third. However, Merrill made a bad throw, sending the ball down the right field fence allowing McRae and Boyes to score with Carlton at third.
The Cougars threatened to score again in the top of the fifth with bases loaded and one out.
However, a heads-up play by Lady Horns' center fielder Waugh took the wind out of Show Low's sails when Waugh snagged a deep fly ball and then gunned it to first base catching the Show Low baserunner off the bag.
Payson was up by one run, 3-2, going into the top of the seventh inning when fielding and throwing errors by the Payson outfield allowed Show Low to score two runs.
Payson threatened in the bottom of the seventh loading the bases with one out off a base hit by Staci Scholl, an error and a walk. However, they were unable to score as the next two batters went down on a strike-out and a fielder's choice.
The Lady Horns will host Snowflake at 4 p.m. today (Friday), and their last home game will be played at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 13 against Holbrook.
The Lady Horns will spend their last two weeks of league play on the road against Round Valley, Blue Ridge and Show Low. They will also participate in a two-day tournament in Page April 19 and 20.
Payson hopes to end the season at the 3A conference state playoffs at the Rose Mofford softball complex in Phoenix starting May 3.