Coach Will Dunman and his Lady Longhorns face the challenge today (Friday) of playing four games in six hours.
As one of 10 teams entered in the Buckeye Invitational Tournament, the Lady Horns open the fray at noon against the Prescott Badgers. Also today, Payson plays St. Johns (3 p.m.), Maryvale (4:30 p.m.) and Wickenburg (6 p.m.). The results of those games will be used to seed the Lady Horns into a double elimination showdown tomorrow in Buckeye.
At midweek, Dunman said his tournament strategy would be to possibly pitch his ace hurler Brenna Zumbro in the first, second and fourth games. The two-hour break between the Prescott and St. Johns clashes would be enough rest time for her to pitch the first two tournament games, Dunman said.
In the third game, Dunman can call upon Morgan O'Haver or possibly freshman Tiffany Klemstein who was recently brought up from the jayvee team to travel to the tournament. First baseman Sharra Johnson, who has an assortment of off-speed pitches, also can hurl if needed.
Although the coach had penciled in his pitching rotation, he said his plan was to remain flexible. If Zumbro tires from the workload of three games, Dunman said he wouldn't hesitate to call upon another pitcher.
"This early in the year, we don't want to get anyone injured," he said.
For Zumbro, the challenge of pitching three games in such a short period is something she hasn't experienced.
"I've never pitched three games that close together," she said. "But (coach Dunman) is cool about it; if I tell him I'm not feeling good, he'll take me out."
In the tournament, Zumbro plans on relying on her curve ball and change up as strike-out pitches.
"They've been my two best (pitches)," she said.
Offensively, the Lady Horns feature a trio of topnotch hitters in Jessica Coleman, Hilary Armenta and O'Haver. All three had field days in Payson's season opening 11-3 win over Apache Junction. Coleman was 4-for-5, Armenta had three hits in five appearances and O'Haver was 2-for-3.
Although it's early in the season, Dunman is predicting that the Lady Horn offense could be a team strength.
"I think we'll surprise some people and score some runs," he said.
Following the invitational tournament, the Lady Horns return to Buckeye March 16 for junior varsity and varsity games against the Hawks. Game time for both is 3:30 p.m. at Buckeye High School.