The Payson 9-10-year-old all-star team advanced to the state tournament Saturday with a 10-4 win over Show Low in Flagstaff.
This is the first time that a 9-10-year-old team from Payson has gone to the state championship, said Coach Ty Goodman.
The team scored eight runs in the first two innings, but didn't score again until the sixth inning when Ray Lott hit a home run, racking up two more points and reinvigorating the team.
The hit "put the icing on the cake" and carried the team through to win the game in high spirits, Goodman said.
The fourth and fifth innings also were marked by two impressive catches by center fielder Eric Vohs. Vohs made a diving catch in the fourth inning to make the third out and prevent two runners from getting home.
It was "one of the best catches I've seen all year," Goodman said.
Vohs made another great catch in the fifth inning, Goodman said, when he ran back to catch the ball to make the third out and prevent two runners on base from getting home.
Without those catches, the tide of the game could have easily turned in Show Low's favor, the coach said.
Chris Cooper pitched the entire game, striking out the final batter, one of Show Low's best. Players at that age normally get tired at 75 pitches, but Cooper was still throwing strong at the end of the game with more than 85 pitches, Goodman said.
But the game isn't about a few key players, it's about the entire team, Goodman said.
"Everybody is a key factor in winning," he said. "Everybody playing on the all-star team has been coming through at the right time."
The team's first state championship appearance will be 8 p.m., July 18, in northwest Phoenix.
The team is guaranteed six games in the state tournament, and the plan is to stay in the winner's brackets, Goodman said.
But the team will face some stiff competition in the tournament. All teams participating in the state tournament will be undefeated first-place teams, just like Payson.
"We should be able to put up a good fight at state," Goodman said. "I think with the team we've got right now, we've got a good shot at winning it."
The Payson all-stars advanced to Saturday's championship showdown by romping past Blue Ridge 12-0 in the district tournament opener July 7 in Flagstaff.
With that victory, the Payson stars had outscored their opponents 40-8 in three area tournament games and the district's first round.
Goodman attributed the victory over Blue Ridge in part to the hurling of Blake Cannon who started on the hill and went the distance giving up just three hits and striking out seven.
"He was awesome and we played some great defense," Goodman said. "We also hit the ball well enough to (10) run rule them."
Both Blue Ridge and Payson entered the district fray after posting 3-0 records in area tournament showdowns.
In area play beginning June 30 in Flagstaff, Payson whipped Flagstaff Continental 10-6, Flagstaff 13-1 and Winslow 11-1.
By thumping on Blue Ridge in the district opener, the Payson all-stars enjoyed a bit of revenge on a team that run-ruled them during last year's postseason tournament.
"We are a better team this year," Goodman said. "These kids are just awesome."
The Payson all-stars were selected in a voting of Little League Minor Division coaches held at the conclusion of the regular season.