Good Hitting, Solid Defense Secret To Horns' Success

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Boasting 13-3-1 credentials (3-0 in the East region), the Longhorns are off to their best start in school baseball history.

Coach Teddy Pettet, who's been at the helm of the program since 1989, attributes the success of the team to good hitting, solid defense and a well-rounded pitching staff that while consistent might lack a superstar.

"I don't know if we have an ace, but we have a good top three in Ky Bradley, Chad McRae and Jeremy Heairet," Pettet said.

When those three starters hit the skids, Jon Beeson has proven to be an able replacement.

"He's our middle reliever that's how we want to use him," Pettet said.

All four hurlers, and a trio of others, saw considerable action in the Longhorns' three-game set played last week.

The Horns tipped off the stint March 19 in Payson where they pounded out an 11-1 East region victory over Round Valley. Action continued the following day, also in Payson, with a 21-16 triumph over the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.

At Mingus Union High School March 22, the Horns saw their win-streak come to an end with a 9-6 loss to Barlett High School of Anchorage, Alaska.

The Alaska team, Pettet said, was in the midst of a 10-day visit to Arizona in which the squad was slated to play 12 games against several of the state's schools.

"The season (in Alaska) hasn't even started yet and when it does, they'll only play eight games," Pettet said, "so they come (to Arizona) for games."

After spotting Alaska a 9-0 lead, the Horns came roaring back to score three runs in both the fifth and seventh innings.

But the rally came up short when the Horns committed a series of costly miscues on the base paths.

"We just ran ourselves out of several innings," Pettet said.

Senior Matt Woolwine was tagged with the loss after hurling 2/3 of an inning in relief of starter Levi Armstrong. Facing eight batters, Woolwine gave up six runs on just one hit. His shortfall, however, was that he issued two walks and hit three batsmen.

Heairet and Ashton Shewey also saw pitching duties combining for 4 2/3 innings of relief.

Offensively, Sean Pickle led the Horn hit parade with a perfect two-for-two effort that included three RBIs.

McRae and Shewey had two hits in four trips to the plate.

A pair of East wins

In the win over Round Valley, Bradley who got off to a rocky start this season turned in his best effort of the young campaign.

After receiving the starting nod from Pettet, the senior right-hander hurled the entire five-inning game giving up one earned run on three hits. He also struck out three and stranded two Elk baserunners.

With Bradley in command and the Horn "O" on a roll, the game was called in the bottom of the fifth inning on the 10-run rule.

Pickle shined at the plate, contributing two singles and three RBIs in four appearances.

Junior shortstop Nate Perna swatted two singles, scored once and had two RBIs.

The win over Blue Ridge, Pettet said, "was a home run fest in which no (team) could get the other out."

The Yellow Jackets got the fireworks off to a blazing start by lighting up Payson's starting hurler, Beeson, for seven runs in one inning on the hill.

Before McRae could come on in relief, Beeson had given up four singles, two doubles and two home runs.

Although McRae was officially credited with the win after going 5 2/3 innings, he allowed three home runs to the Yellow Jackets.

Relieving McRae in the top of the seventh, Bradley came on to put the crimps on a two-out Blue Ridge rally. Facing two batters, Bradley coughed up a double before retiring the side on an infield grounder.

While the Horn pitching wasn't at its best, the offense paced by lead-off hitter Waylon Pettet was producing runs at a breakneck pace. Pettet finished three-for-three at the plate, scored four runs and had one RBI.

Pickle, McRae and Shewey all contributed two hits each.

Although Ky Bradley had just one hit in one official plate appearance, it was a crucial blow that kept hopes alive in the early going.

With the Horns trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the first, Bradley lifted a three-run homer over the left center field fence to pull Payson back into contention.

Later in the contest, Bradley was hit by a pitch, drew three walks, stole a base, advanced on a wild pitch and scored three more runs.

In addition to his offensive exploits, Bradley turned in a steady game at third base.

With a 3-0 record, the Longhorns are currently tied for first in the East standings with the Show Low Cougars who are also unbeaten.

Next up for the Longhorns is a pair of nonregion games.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), Payson travels to Peoria Sunrise Mountain where the Horns will take on a prep squad from Overland, Colo. Game time is 3 p.m.

Thursday, Payson travels to Sedona for a 3:30 p.m. clash.

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