Payson High School senior Rachel Ray has been invited to compete in the Arizona Coaches Association Red vs. Blue All-Star Fast Pitch Softball Game when it is played at 6:30 p.m. June 5 in Casa Grande.
Ray and her all-star teammates were tapped to the game in a voting of ACA coaches held at the conclusion of the high school campaign.
The clash's format will feature two five-inning games. One star team will comprise senior players from the East and North regions. On the opposing teams will be South and West region representatives. The team designation of Red or Blue will not be made until just before game time.
Last season, Ray -- a fireballing pitcher with an assortment of offerings -- hurled the Lady Longhorns to a 22-7-1 record, an East region second-place finish and a berth in the state tournament.
The team's credentials represented the second best in the history of the sport at PHS. Last season, the team earned a 25-7 mark.
Ray's finest moment as a Lady Horn might have come in the regular season finale against East region champion Show Low.
On PHS diamond before a crowd of Payson faithful, Ray (7-3) hurled the Lady Horns to a 5-2 victory over the Cougars. The win nailed down the region's silver-medal finish for Payson. Following that PHS win, Payson was eliminated from the state tournament by a first round loss to Safford. Show Low advanced to the state championship but lost to Chandler Seton in the gold-medal finale.
Although Ray's prep career was sometimes mired by injuries, she sported a reputation as a fierce competitor.
"In the big games and tough situations, she always wanted the ball, she wanted to be pitching," coach Will Dunman said.
Ray, Dunman and other players gathered one final time May 21 at Julia Randall Elementary School for the traditional season-ending awards ceremony.
In addition to announcing the selections to the ACA all-star game, Dunman praised Ray and fellow pitcher Brenna Zumbro for receiving All-East region first team honors.
Doni Miotto and Sherra Johnson were named to the second team.
Zumbro, a junior at PHS, played third base for the Lady Horns when she was not on the mound. As the Lady Horns most efficient hitter, she also was a big part of the offense.
"She's a hard-nosed kid who has really worked hard to get better," Dunman said.
Miotto, the starting centerfield and leadoff hitter, was known for her steady defensive play.
"When the ball was hit in the air, we knew she would get to it," Dunman said. "She also had a great arm and a strong work ethic."
When the Johnson family moved to Payson last year from Peoria, the Lady Horns picked up a seasoned club player who became a big part of the Lady Longhorn team effort.
As the starting first baseman and the No. 3 hitter in the lineup, Johnson brought added offense and steady play to the team.
"She was such a coachable kid," Dunman said.
With the season and awards ceremony at an end, Dunman and the returning players will set their sights on Payson High's move to the Class 4A Grand Canyon region next season.
"We are looking forward to the change of scenery but will miss our rivals from the (3A) East," Dunman said.
Instead of battling the likes of longtime foes Show Low and Snowflake for region honors, the Lady Horns will be pitted next spring against 4A powers Flagstaff and Mingus.
"I'm excited about it," Dunman said. "We'll jump right in and I think we can compete."
One of the coach's biggest tasks next year will be to find replacements for Ray and infielder/outfielder Laura Crabtree.
Both graduated Saturday with the class of 2003.