It's on to state for the Lady Longhorn softball team. Payson will open the 4A state tournament at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow on Lady Horn diamond as the second seed from the Grand Canyon Region. Payson will be pitted against the Kino region's No. 3 seed. At press time, the Lady Horn's opponent had not been determined, but the region comprises Tucson-area schools, the largest of which is Sabino.
If the Horns win the state opener, they would advance to the second round against Sonoran region champion Tucson Ironwood Ridge. That game would be played at 4:30 p.m. May 9 in Tucson.
The state championship will be played 7 p.m. May 14 at the University of Arizona's Hillenbrand Stadium.
The Lady Horns advance to state as the Grand Canyon runner-up after dropping a 7-1 decision to GCR champion Flagstaff May 4 in Flagstaff.
In the loss, freshman Candice Johnson started on the hill and pitched six full innings before giving way to Tiffany Klemstein who hurled the final frame.
Against the two Payson hurlers, Flagstaff pounded out nine base hits. The Lady Horns had four hits including doubles by Kaycee Pugel and Hannah Armenta.
Lady Horns fork Devils
The Lady Longhorns 9-3 Grand Canyon Region tournament semifinal win over the Page Sand Devils proved which was the better team.
The two GCR rivals entered the May 3 game in Flagstaff evenly matched having split a regular season double-header and tied for the runner-up spot in the final season standings.
Many thought the clash to be a cliffhanger. But freshman Hannah Armenta's three-run home run in the top of the first inning propelled the Lady Horns to a lead they never relinquished.
After Page scored a run in the bottom of the first to close the Payson lead to 3-1, the Lady Horns responded with three runs in the top of the second.
Crucial hits in the rally were Jessica Coleman's RBI single and Hilary Armenta's two-run double to right center field.
Leading 6-2 in the top of the fourth, Krista LaHaye led off the inning with a line drive stand-up triple to right field. After Coleman got aboard on a walk, a nicely executed squeeze play scored LaHaye and sent Coleman scampering to third. Three pitches later, Coleman scored on a passed ball to up the Payson lead to 8-2.
The Lady Horns tacked on an insurance run in the seventh when Katie Plumb got aboard on an error, advanced on a pinch-hit single by Kaycee Pugel and scored on a one-bagger by Johnson.
Page managed its final run in the bottom of the second courtesy of the Lady Horns' second error of the game.
Coach Will Dunman lauded his players for their efforts.
"We were firing on all cylinders -- bunting, hitting the long ball, base hits, pitching and overall defense," he said.
Hannah Armenta's HR in the first was her seventh of the season and a school record. Her sister is second on the team with three.
The Lady Horns advanced to the Grand Canyon region semifinal game by virtue of a 13-4 opening round victory over Chinle.