All-Star Ballplayers Primed For Tournament Play

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Payson Little League baseball players dream of following in the record-setting footsteps of the 2003 major division all-star team that advanced to the Arizona state tournament after winning area and district championships.

That team from Payson was the only crew to win a district crown and play at the state showdown in Gilbert.

The Payson ballplayers won their first two games before dropping a 15-1 decision to Paradise Valley.

The squad eventually turned in a fifth-place state finish, setting the bar high for future Little League teams.

The next Rim country all-star squad, ages 11 to 12, with the opportunity to duplicate the 2003 team's effort is now practicing for the upcoming local championship tournament in Payson.

The all-stars include Josh Bane, Keaton Duran, Cameron Geske, Clint Godac, Cale Novak, Gunner Bauer, Zack Blazer, Westin Gibson, Dylan Richardson, Preston Cook, Jordan Henderson and Jake Sleeper.

Geske and Blazer are the only two players who were on last year's all-star team.

Eddie Duran, the manager of the Payson stars, said the team is well-stocked with pitchers and defensive players, but could struggle offensively.

"We'll have to hit the ball to win," he said.

The double-elimination tournament tips off Monday, June 27 with four first-round games, concluding 4 p.m., July 2, with the championship finale.

Competition will take place on Rumsey Park I field and the Payson High School softball diamond.

The Payson all-stars open at 1 p.m., June 27, on the Rumsey field against Flagstaff Continental.

Other first round games pit Tuba City against Coconino (10 a.m.), Mt. Elden against Page (4 p.m.), and Flagstaff versus Winslow (7 p.m.).

All opening round games will be played on the Rumsey field.

The winner of the tournament advances to the Little League District showdown July 5 in Taylor.

The champion of the district tournament is automatically awarded a berth into the state championship to be held in Gilbert.

The minor league (9 to 10 years) tournament will be held in Flagstaff this year. Payson opens the tournament at 1 p.m., June 30, against Continental on Flagstaff Little League Field No. 2.

Payson all-star team members include Brady O'Donald, Eric Vohs, Cris Bickert, Justin Cobb, Chance Randall, Christopher Cooker, Ray Lott, Zachary Wolf, Vince Becham, Bryce Brunson, Blake Cannon and Nick McMullen.

"We are strong team," coach Ty Goodman said. "We'll have some good pitching and a couple of power hitters."

Goodman said he will start Blake Cannon on the mound in the tournament opener against Continental. Duran has tapped Gibson to be the major division starter.

At the end of the regular season, coaches vote for the minor- and major-division all-stars.

Payson did not have a senior division (13 to 15 years) to choose an all-star team from this season.

The minor division district tournament will also be in Flagstaff.

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