The Payson High School softball and baseball teams' April 29 Grand Canyon regional battles against Flagstaff Coconino will take on a festive atmosphere.
In addition to playing unusual night games against the Panthers (7 p.m.), the varsity clashes will be preceded by junior varsity skirmishes (3:30 p.m.) and a benefit barbecue. With plenty of diamond action and a mouthwatering meal, the afternoon and evening could turn into an old-fashioned community gathering.
Last year, the benefit barbecue drew an estimated 500 people who stayed on that evening to cheer the baseball and softball teams against the Show Low Cougars.
Event organizer Charlene Hunt anticipates the turnout this spring could be even greater.
"Much of the community comes out," she said. "They look forward to it."
On PHS schedules, the games against Coconino are slated for April 30. Weeks ago, Coconino officials asked PHS athletic director Dave Bradley to reschedule the games for April 29. Bradley complied with the request.
The meal will consist of deep pit barbecued beef, cowboy beans and rolls prepared by Albert Hunt.
Over the years, Hunt -- also a school board member -- has built a reputation as being one of the finest cowboy cooks in Arizona.
To prepare the beef, Hunt uses a pit at the Round Valley home of Dr. John Dandruff. In cooking the meat, he normally burns about a cord of oak. The hard oak produces better coals than other types of wood, he said. After the oak has burned for about eight hours and turns white-hot, Hunt expertly covers the coals with large rocks. Next, the wrapped meat is set atop the rocks and the pit is covered with an iron lid. About six inches of soil is then shoveled on the lid.
After simmering underground for about 12 hours, the meat emerges juicy and fork-tender.
Albert Hunt and friends will then take the smoked beef to softball field, near the concession stand, where it will be served up to hungry patrons and sports fans.
All of the proceeds earned from the dinner will be donated to the baseball and softball teams.
Tickets are $5 and are available from any softball or baseball player.
Charlene Hunt will deliver tickets to those who contact her at (928) 978-3221.
Break even week
In Grand Canyon regional play last week, the Lady Horns slipped past Mingus 5-4 in 11 innings, but lost 7-5 to region leading Flagstaff.
The loss to Flagstaff on PHS softball diamond was the third time this season Payson has lost to the Eagles.
In the defeat, Jessica Coleman had three RBIs and Morgan O'Haver contributed a triple to right field. O'Haver later scored a Payson run on a Doni Miotto single.
Senior hurler Brenna Zumbro absorbed the loss giving up six hits, but also struck out eight.
In the victory over Mingus, O'Haver started on the hill, but struggled and was relieved by Zumbro.
The fourth inning produced action for a Payson highlight film when Sherra Johnson sent a two-out, bases-loaded triple to right field.
With the score tied 4-4, the Lady Horns scored the winning run in the 11th frame when O'Haver got aboard on an infield error and later scored on Molly Agnes' single to left.
In the bottom of the 11th inning and the Lady Horns clinging to a precarious 5-4 lead, Zumbro sat the side down in order.