The Payson Longhorns will be looking to reverse their fortunes when the Rim country baseball crew plays host to the Show Low Cougars at 7 p.m. tonight (Friday).
In an earlier meeting of the two longtime opponents, April 26 in Show Low, the Horns out-pitched and out-hit the cats, but it was Payson that came out on the losing end of a 2-0 decision.
The defeat dropped the state second-ranked Longhorns East region record to 7-1.
Tuesday afternoon in Lakeside, the Longhorn's (19-7 overall) record fell to 7-2 after a 2-1 loss to the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.
At stake in tonight's game against Show Low will be first place in the final regional standings. If the Horns whip Show Low, Payson will tie the Cougars for first place and a coin toss will be held to determine the region's first and second seeds to state. If the Horns lose to Show Low, Payson will finish as East runner-up and advance to state as a No. 2 seed.
In the loss to Blue Ridge, Ashton Shewey was tagged with the defeat after hurling six complete innings. A two-run single in the second inning was all Blue Ridge needed for the upset victory.
Shewey allowed six hits, struck out five and walked two.
Payson scored its only run when Waylon Pettet crossed the plate on a fielder's choice ground ball off the bat of Jeremy Heairet.
SL edges Longhorns
In the loss to the Cougars, Heairet turned in yet another brilliant pitching performance that Longhorn fans have come to expect from the senior right-hander. In going the distance on the hill, Heairet gave up just five hits and one earned run.
Although his effort was good enough for a pitching win in most prep games, Heairet was forced to absorb the loss mostly because his normally hot-hitting teammates couldn't generate an offense.
"We were horrible at the plate," coach Teddy Pettet said. "And we were facing a pitcher we should have been able to hit."
The Horns did pound out six hits, but none occurred when the Horns had runners in scoring position.
In tonight's all-important showdown, Heairet (7-2) is again expected to draw the starting pitching assignment.
To avoid a repeat of the earlier meeting between the two teams, the Horns offense must come to life.
In recent games, the leaders of the Payson pack have been the team's No. 5 through 8 and 9 hitters, which include Taylor Walden, Ron Maksymowski, Ricky Young, Ashton Shewey and Heairet.
In a win over Round Valley on April 22, those players had seven of Payson's eight hits. Against Snowflake days earlier, the bottom rungs of the roster pounded out nine of the Horns' 10 hits.
One of the hottest hitters all season has been senior outfielder Waylon Pettet who sports a .433 batting average and is one of the team RBI leaders.
Senior shortstop Nate Perna, a .400-plus hitter, also is an offensive force.
Shewey, who has swatted a team-leading seven home runs, has supplied the power in the lineup.
Following this evening's regular season-ending game, the Horns turn their attention to the state championship tournament that will begin May 9 at Maryvale Stadium.
If the Horns tie for the East region crown with a victory over Show Low and then win the coin toss, they would play at noon against the South's No. 4 seed.
If the Horns finish as East runners-up, they would open pursuit of a state title at 9 a.m. against the South bronze medalist. The second round of the tournament will be played May 10. Semifinal rounds and the championship showdown are slated for May 16 and 17.