Payson High Lady Longhorns opened their softball season with a scrimmage against Winslow Thursday, Feb. 21.
Although no official score was kept, the Lady Horns sent seven runners across the plate to score versus Winslow's six.
Coach Will Dunman, who is in his third year as Payson's head coach, used three pitchers junior Rachel Ray, sophomore Brenna Zumbro and freshman Morgan O'Haver. Ray and Zumbro each worked three innings on the mound, while O'Haver worked one.
Ray, who spent the winter recovering from a stress fracture to her right hand, pitched the first, fourth and sixth inning. She also closed out the third inning after Winslow's battery went on a scoring run against O'Haver.
Dunman said O'Haver showed determination on the mound despite facing the varsity level players.
"As a freshman pitcher, I wanted her to come up against more experienced batters," Dunman said. "It will help her as she develops on the mound on the freshman and junior varsity level."
Winslow was unable to catch up to Ray's pitches as she struck out four batters and did not allow any base runners during her three plus innings on the mound. Zumbro was equally a threat as she allowed only one hit, no runs and struck out two batters.
The Lady Horns offense combined for an overall batting average of .375, scoring one run in the second, four in the third and two in the top of the seventh inning.
Shortstop Brooke McRae demonstrated why she is in the clean-up spot in the batting order when she doubled in the third inning with bases loaded to drive in three of her teammates. McRae then advanced to third when Winslow tried to make a play at home plate on Zumbro. McRae eventually scored on a passed ball by the catcher.
Ray, who struggled offensively last year, showed improvement at the plate with two singles. LeeAnne Owens, Zumbro and Staci Scholl all singled while O'Haver contributed to the Lady Horns' effort with a double to right-center field.
Dunman expects to see more power out of his team this year as a result of a batting stance change. Dunman and his assistant coaches attended a softball camp at the University of Arizona in December.
U of A Coach Mike Candrea, who has coached his team to many NCAA national titles, demonstrated a batting style for softball players that is similar to the Diamondbacks' Luis Gonzales.
"The girls are utilizing more hip and shoulder with a strong base that has their feet wide," Dunman said. "There is no striding and trying to hit the ball at the same time."
The Lady Horns open their season today, Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Miami with a 3:30 p.m. game. They will host Mogollon Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and travel to Fountain Hills Saturday for a game scheduled to start at noon.