Fresh off a 2-3 showing in the Mohave Invitational, the Longhorn baseball team has returned to the tournament stage in Miami.
Over the course of the six-team round-robin tournament, which began Thursday, the Horns play four games before wrapping up at 3:45 p.m. Saturday against the host Vandals.
First-year PHS coach Jerry Daniels said he'll use the tournament to settle on the starting lineup for the season-opening game March 14 in Lakeside against Blue Ridge.
"We are still experimenting and moving people around, but this tournament will help us determine who our best nine are," Daniels said.
When preseason practices began, the coach predicted offense would be a team strength and pitching might be its weakness.
The Mohave fray proved just the opposite.
"Our pitching turned out to be our strong point and kept us in every game," Daniels said. "We also faced some pretty good pitchers that had our hitters off balance. With a couple more hits in the right situations, we could have very easily been 5-0."
The coach is not about to give up on his sluggers, though.
"I still think they will be good when we have a chance to take a few more cuts in practice and see more live pitching," he said.
The Longhorns preseason training sessions were cut short by inclement weather that forced some practices indoors where live hitting was almost non-existent.
The indoor sessions didn't limit pitchers Donnie Wilbanks, Kyle Sachak, Jason Sweet, Darren Daniels and Matt Behrens, who were throwing off an indoor mound in old PHS gym.
According to coach Daniels, all five hurlers were effective in the Mohave tournament.
"We also had couple of other guys help us get past some sore arms," he said.
Offensively, coach Daniels cited Tyler Williams, Morgan Cassuto, Darren Daniels and Sachak as the team's top hitters.
Morgan, a sophomore, was called up from the junior varsity only days before the Mohave tournament to provide bench help.
More hitting help could arrive when senior Matt LeVac returns to the lineup after sitting out the Mohave game with an injured hand.
In the Mohave tournament, Payson opened with three consecutive losses to Palo Verde, Calif. (3-2), Mohave (8-2) and Kingman (2-1). The Horns rebounded from the three-game skid with wins over Window Rock (13-2) and Joseph City (11-0).
In the Miami tournament, the Horns took on San Manuel at 6 p.m. Thursday (results not available at press time) and will play a double-header Friday. Games are at 11:15 a.m. vs. Globe and 3:45 p.m. vs. Florence.