An error filled 8-6 win over the Alchesay Falcons coupled with a Show Low loss has stamped the Longhorns a solid favorite to finish third in the final region standings.
If the scenario unfolds as expected, the Horns (11-10 overall, 6-3 in the East) would advance to the state tournament as the East's No. 3 seeded team paired in the tournament's opening round against the South No. 2 seed.
"That will probably be Sahuarita and they are stacked this year," coach Jerry Daniels said. "If we somehow could bye that game, our bracket would get a little easier."
The game pitting East No. 3 against South No. 2 would be played at noon May 5 on Maryvale Baseball Park Field No. 5.
In the Alchesay vs. Payson regular season showdown -- April 18 on PHS diamond -- the two teams combined for a whopping 12 errors.
Payson's leaky defense was charged with four of the miscues. The bumbling Falcons committed eight.
Due to the PHS errors, of the five runs scored against starter Jake Willis in his three innings on the hill, only one was earned. Willis walked one and struck out four before being relieved by Matt LeVac who was credited with the win.
LeVac, a senior right-hander, faced 13 batters, gave up four hits, walked one and struck out one.
In addition to his pitching prowess, LeVac swung a hot bat, finishing 2-for-4 at the plate including a double. He also scored two of the Horns runs.
Matt Behrens contributed a double and two runs scored in three at-bats. On the base paths, he stole two bases to up his season mark to 12 which ties in with Blue Ridge's Josh Coplan for the East region lead.
In the Horns seven hit attack against Alchesay, leadoff hitter Zak Miller had a double and Andy Sanders, Jason Sweet, Ridge Halenar and Hunter Hayes all contributed singles.
The Horns return to action today, Friday, against league leading Blue Ridge. Game time is 6 p.m. in Lakeside.
There, the Horns will be facing a formidable task in that first-year coach Joe Merklin has his team in top form.
"They never quit and they will battle it out to the end," Merklin said.
Eight seniors, including three-year starting pitchers Eli Otero and Jesse Baker, fuel the team.