There are no secrets to PHS sophomore Brenna Zumbro's pitching success that recently led to her being named a member of the 3A All-state softball team.
A strong work ethic that included traveling back and forth to Phoenix where she played club ball helped mold Zumbro into one of the best fast-pitch high school hurlers in the state.
When first encouraged by her older brother Bryan to take a shot at pitching, Zumbro says she was a bit reluctant. At the time, she was just an elementary school student who harbored few aspirations of becoming a topnotch pitcher.
But after watching her brother hurl the Longhorn baseball team to the 1999 state championship and later earn a scholarship to the United States Air Force Academy, Zumbro decided pitching might be an option.
So, her parents, Val and Mick, enlisted the services of former University of Arizona pitching coach Ron Boudin to teach Zumbro the tricks of the trade. When Boudin turned ill last year, another Wildcat coach, Becky Limkie, took over tutoring Zumbro.
Another step in the development of the young athlete was participating the past three seasons on the X-plosion club teams that compete in a Valley fast-pitch girls league. Playing in Phoenix meant her parents had to drive her to and from the Valley for both practices and games.
But tutoring and league play paid huge dividends last week when a foursome of 3A coaches whose teams won 2002 A regional championships tapped her Payson High's only all-state player.
Zumbro also was one of only three sophomores chosen to the 15-member team by coaches Jerry Mullins (Chandler Seton), Carl Nix (Show Low), Bill Nye (Fountain Hills) and Lyn Sawyer (Winslow).
Modest and unassuming about the selection, Zumbro says she didn't consciously set out to become an all-state player, but feels honored to be able to represent Payson on the prestigious squad.
Relying on four basic pitches a drop, rise, change-up and fastball Zumbro hurled the Longhorns into the state quarterfinals where the team lost to eventual state champion Chandler Seton.
During the course of the campaign, she compiled a 16-3 record and a 1.13 ERA. When not pitching, she played in the outfield. Her .326 batting average and .425 on-base percentages were among the best in the East region.
Most of the early season, Zumbro shared the pitching chores with junior Rikki Ray. However, when Ray suffered an injury in April, Zumbro took over as the Longhorns No. 1 pitching threat.
That same scenario unfolded her freshman season when Ray was in line to become the ace on the Lady Horn pitching staff.
As a rookie, Zumbro seemed destined for freshman and jayvee action only. However, a hand injury sidelined Ray and head coach Will Dunman quickly summoned Zumbro to the varsity.
Despite her youth and inexperience, Zumbro hurled the Lady Horns into the state tournament and an opening round win over Tuba City.
In the quarterfinal, powerful Seton eliminated Payson from postseason play.
With the high school season now at an end, Zumbro has returned to club play and finds herself once again making the frequent trips to the Valley.
Her goal, she says, is to improve her skills enough in the next two years to earn a college scholarship. She'd like to play at either UCLA or San Diego State University. Those might seem like lofty goals for a small-town softball player, but Zumbro has a role model who's set the standard plenty high for his younger sister.
By playing his way onto the Air Force Academy baseball team, Bryan Zumbro has proven that success on the Division I level can become a reality for a small-town athlete willing to make the sacrifices.
"I'd like to do what he's done," Zumbro said.
The four championship coaches selected just four East region players to the All-State team. In addition to Zumbro, they were Missy Orona of Round Valley and Bobbie Joe Merill and Cortney Nix of Show Low.
Class 3A state champion Chandler Seton dominated the selections with three players chosen. They included catcher/ infielder Shelby Davis, first baseman Meghan Schaiberger and pitcher/outfielder Kim Zadrozny.
Zadrozny is a senior competitor the Lady Horns won't miss. In the past two state tournaments, the Seton star has beaten Payson.