Panthers A Hurdle Lady Horns Must Leap

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If the Class 4A Grand Canyon region softball title chase unfolds as expected, the Payson vs. Coconino skirmish could develop into a heated rivalry. The two first met April 13 in Flagstaff where the Lady Horns posted a 10-0 victory. The game, which was never called off on the 10-run rule, was contested a bit closer than the final score indicated.

"I didn't know we had scored 10 runs," coach Will Dunman said.

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Jessica Coleman holds down the hot corner for the Lady Longhorn softball team.

The two rivals will clash once again April 29 on the PHS diamond. Since that game will be preceded by the Lady Horn's annual benefit barbecue, expect a big crowd.

A real possibility exists that when the regional tournament begins May 1, the Panthers could be traveling to Payson to open postseason play against the Lady Horns.

The first round of the Grand Canyon tournament is played at the home site of the highest seed.

First-round winners earn the right to advance to the quarterfinals slated for May 3 and 4 at Mingus Cottonwood.

If the Panthers and Lady Horns do meet three times this season as predicted, a spirited rivalry could develop in only Payson High's first year in the 4A conference.

In Payson's victory over Coconino in Flagstaff, Morgan O'Haver received the starting pitching nod from Dunman and turned in the finest pitching performance of her short varsity career. In hurling seven full innings, she give up just two hits, struck out five and walked four. O'Haver also thrived on a solid defense that committed just one error.

The finest defensive play of the game was turned in during the sixth inning after the Panther clean-up hitter tried to stretch a stand-up double into a triple. The hit was flagged down along the left field line, almost at the outfield fence, by Ashley Anesin who uncorked a throw to her cut off -- shortstop Molly Agnes. The relay throw from Agnes to freshman third baseman Tamara Crabdree was as accurate as a Tomahawk missile bound for Baghdad.

Crabdree straddled the base, gloved the ball and slapped a tag on the startled Coconino runner.

In the scorebook, the play went down simply as a 7-6-5 out. For Dunman, however, it was a picture of perfection.

"That's the way we want to play that," he said. "We practice it enough."

When O'Haver wasn't setting down opposing batters, she was driving in runs. In four plate appearances, she had two hits, a team-leading four RBIs and scored a run.

Her third inning double ignited a three-run rally that upped Payson's lead to 6-0 over the Panthers.

Jessica Coleman also turned in an exceptional offensive performance finishing 3-for-3 at the plate.

Doni Miotto, Casey Pugel and Hilary Armenta contributed two hits each. Armenta also had two RBIs.

The Lady Horns spring back into Grand Canyon action today (Tuesday) at Mingus Cottonwood. Game time is 4 p.m.

The clash will be the second of the season between the two teams. In a meeting April 8 on PHS diamond, senior Brenna Zumbro pitched Payson to a 3-0 victory.

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