There is no admission to Lady Longhorn softball games, but if there was, fans would have received more than their money's worth in Payson's pulsating 5-4 win Tuesday over Mingus.
"It was one of the most exciting, well-played games I've seen," Lady Horn coach Will Dunman said.
The diamond drama peaked in the bottom of the ninth inning after the Lady Horns had fallen behind 4-3 and were on the verge of dropping the crucial Grand Canyon Region skirmish.
First up, Tanya Davis kept the Horns' hopes alive with a single.
Jessica Coleman then worked the Mingus hurler for a 3-1 count before uncorking a triple to right center field that scored Davis with the tying run.
With Coleman on at third, Hilary Armenta responded to the pressure situation by swatting a base hit ground ball up the middle that rolled to the fence and scored the winning run.
Armenta's clutch hit sent the players and Payson faithful into a celebration that would only be rivaled by one in which they had just learned they were clutching the winning lottery tickets.
"Wins don't get much better than that one," Dunman said.
In addition to the hitting heroics of Hilary Armenta, the Horns received a huge boost from her younger sister, Hannah.
Only a freshman, Hannah swatted two solo home runs, pushing her total to four for the season.
With the win, Payson improved its GCR record to 6-3 and remain in contention of the region's regular season runner-up slot.
If the Lady Horns can retain sole possession of second place they would open postseason play April 30 on PHS diamond against the GCR cellar dweller.
But before the coach or players can begin thinking about the GCR tournament, they must take care of regular season business in a doubleheader tomorrow against Chinle. Game times are noon and 2 p.m. on PHS diamond.
A season-ending clash April 29 against Coconino on PHS field has been rescheduled for April 28. Game times are 4 p.m. (jayvee) and 7 p.m. (varsity).
An afternoon highlight, in addition to the games, will be the annual deep-pit barbecue skillfully prepared by Albert and Charlene Hunt.
The husband and wife's outdoor cooking is the stuff Rim country legends are made of.
The duo will begin the cooking process two days before the event by stoking a carefully prepared, oak wood fire in a deep pit. Cooking the beef requires almost a full cord of wood.
About 5 p.m. the day prior to the meal, the beef is wrapped in burlap and lowered into the pit. After being skillfully covered with rocks, the beef will be left to cook until about 2 p.m. the following day.
"It's a long process but well worth it," Charlene Hunt said.
The lip-smackin' meal is scheduled to be served from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. near the softball field concession stand.
Tickets, priced at $5 per person, are now on sale. They are available from any softball player or by calling Will Dunman at (928) 472-2266 or Kadi Tenney at (928) 468-1838.
This year's benefit is being sponsored by Coldwell Banker Bishop Realty. The local real estate company contributed 300 pounds of beef for the barbecue.