If assists were awarded in baseball as they are in basketball, Snowflake coach Kevin Standerfer would be receiving one for the Payson Longhorn's 10-4 win over Lobos.
In the crucial 3A East showdown April 17 in Snowflake, the Lobo coach's refusal to leave the game site after being ordered to by umpires put an end to the game in the top of the sixth inning. At the time, the Longhorns were clinging to a six-run lead.
According to Payson High School coach Teddy Pettet, the brouhaha began when Standerfer vehemently protested an umpire's decision that a Lobo player had been tagged out on the base path.
After expressing his displeasure, Standerfer was first ordered to remain in the dug out for the remainder of the game, Pettet said. When the coach continued his protest, umpires ejected him from the game. His refusal to leave the site resulted in umpires terminating the game prematurely.
If the game hadn't ended there, the Lobos would have had two innings to try to claw their way back into contention.
With the win, which Pettet calls one of the most unusual in this 16-year tenure, the state second-ranked Longhorns improved their overall credentials to 16-4.
Most importantly, the victory kept the Horns unbeaten (5-0) in the East region and almost assuredly nailed down a state tournament berth for Payson.
With five games remaining on the East schedule, the Longhorns will now set their sights on the East championship and the resulting first place seed into the state tournament that's set to begin May 9 in Peoria.
The team's impressive start might also be the best since Pettet took over the coaching reins.
"I can't remember a better one," he said.
Even the 1999 team that eventually won the 3A state championship wasn't off to the remarkable jumpstart that the current crew of diamond men has posted.
Heairet leads charge
Much of the Payson credit for the victory over the Lobos could be attributed to Jeremy Heairet.
After receiving the starting pitching nod from Pettet, Heairet (6-1) responded with an outing in which he hurled the entire five innings and was credited with the victory.
During his stint on the hill, Heairet struck out six and did not issue a walk.
Pitching, however, was not his only contribution to PHS's winning effort. At the plate, he was 3-for-3 with three RBIs. A pair of his hits were doubles. Teammate Ricky Young, a pitcher and utility player, was also 3-for-3 and had two RBIs.
The roster's No. 5 through No. 8 hitters, Taylor Walden, Heairet, Ronnie Maksymowski and Young, pounded out nine of the Longhorns' 10 base knocks.
The Longhorns return to East region action at 4 p.m. today (Tuesday) in Round Valley.
If today's game is as hotly contested as an April 1 meeting between the two teams was, the Horns are in for a barnburner.
In the April Fool's showdown, which Payson won 3-2, the outcome wasn't decided until the bottom of the 10th inning when Ashton Shewey's base hit scored Travis Sanders with the winning run.
Elk pitching ace Ryan Myers held the Longhorns at bay the entire game until being yanked at the end of nine innings.
In Longhorn land, Pettet and his players are anticipating Myers will draw the Elks' starting pitching assignment today.
A regional clash that was to be played April 15 in Show Low was postponed due to snow and poor playing conditions in the White Mountain community. The clash has been tentatively rescheduled for April 26. Game time has not yet been agreed upon by PHS and SLHS officials.