After winning two consecutive state tournament games, the Payson Little League Major Division all-star team met its match Tuesday evening at Gilbert Crossroads Park.
There, a highly talented Paradise Valley all-star squad soundly thumped the Rim stars 15-1. The lopsided clash was called off in the fourth inning on the 10-run rule.
Payson coach Bob Halenar lauded the Paradise Valley team as one of the most talented he has seen play in the postseason tournament.
"They are a very good team, among the best," he said.
Payson's loss does not spell the demise of the team's ambitions of eventually winning the state tournament and advancing to the national showdown.
The team was slated to continue pool play at 5:30 p.m. yesterday (Thursday) vs. the District 9 all-stars (results not available at press time). Payson also has pool games at 7:30 p.m. today (Friday) vs. District 10 and at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday) vs. District 7. All games are played at Crossroads Park, 2155 E. Knox Road in Gilbert.
If the Payson stars can hold their own in their remaining pool games, a top-two finish would earn the team a berth in the semifinal brackets.
In one semifinal bracket, the No. 1 seed from Pool A will play the No. 2 seed from Pool B. In the other semifinal, the No. 1 seed from Pool B takes on Pool A's No. 2 seed. The winners of the semifinal clashes meet at 7 p.m. July 30 for the state championship. Payson is aligned in the seven-team Pool B with champions from districts 3, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
Payson opened state tournament play with a 10-1 pasting of Nogales and a 8-7 triumph over Safford.
Against Safford on July 14, Payson took an 8-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth and final frame.
"I thought we had it made," Halenar said.
Just when the road ahead looked smooth, the wheels came off the Payson wagon.
In Safford's final at bat, the team rallied for seven runs and had the tying run on at third and the winning run at second before Payson could retire the side and chalk up the win.
"That was unbelievable," Halenar said.
Payson led 1-0 early before scoring six runs in the top of the fourth inning. Big hits in the uprising were doubles off the bats of Tyler Savage and Cody York.