The most successful season in Payson High School baseball history (21-7-1) came to a disappointing end Friday afternoon in the Peoria Sports Complex.
Playing in the opening round of the Class 3A Arizona State tournament, the Longhorns lost a 7-1 decision to Chino Valley.
With the defeat, the Horns who finished the regular season as the East regional runners-up packed up their gear and returned to the Rim country where they will begin preparations for summer play.
Chino Valley's victory propelled the team into a second round showdown Saturday against Chandler Seton Catholic. Seton advanced to the second round with Friday's 3-2 win over North regional champion Winslow. An 8-5 loss to Seton eliminated Chino Valley from the tournament.
With the opening pair of rounds complete, the state tournament will resume at 3 p.m. May 10 at the Peoria Sports Complex.
On Padre Field No. 3, West regional champion Fountain Hills plays South bronze-medalist Coolidge.
The Coolidge Bears advanced to the final four by edging East champion Show Low 7-5.
On Mariner Field No. 2, Seton takes on South regional champion Safford.
Seton, which entered the tournament as an underdog having placed fourth in the South region, surprised everyone by defeating two higher-seeded teams.
The winners of the Fountain Hills vs. Coolidge and Seton vs. Safford showdowns will clash for the state championship at 7 p.m., May 11, in the Peoria Sports Complex main stadium.
In the Longhorns' loss to Chino Valley, Payson batsmen could never solve the pitching wizardry of hurler Craig Hewitt. In seven full innings, the hard-throwing right hander allowed only one hit a third inning single to right field by Waylon Pettet.
For Payson, the pitching loss went to starter Chad McRae.
In the fourth and trailing 2-0, McRae gave way to Jeremy Heariet who promptly gave up a bases-loaded triple that just about erased any hopes of a Payson victory.
The Horn cause also was thwarted by several base-running miscues that eliminated the possibility of a big inning for PHS.
On three occasions, once with no outs, the Horns loaded the bases but couldn't score more than a single run.
With the season at an end, the players will await the voting of East region coaches to learn which athletes have been selected to the all-region team. Those results will be made public later this week.
Also, senior members of the team are eligible to participate in this summer's Arizona Coaches Association North vs. South All Star game.
Players will be selected for those teams in a voting of ACA members at the conclusion of the state tournaments.
For senior Ky Bradley, a four-year letter winner, the end of the season means he can begin pursuit of his longtime dream of playing on the college level. Bradley said he would like to continue his career at an Arizona college or university.