Payson Returns In Pursuit Of District Championship

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Mark Grace Field in Flagstaff has become a second home for the Payson Little League Major Division (11-12 years) all-star team.

Last week, the Payson celestial crew played five games at Mark Grace Field that was serving as the site of the Little League Area One championships.

After posting a 4-1 record and finishing second in the tournament, Payson returns to Mark Grace Field tomorrow, Wednesday, to begin pursuit of a district championship.

"We are getting to know that place pretty well," all-star coach and manager Ty Goodman said.

Payson's first round opponent is Holbrook - the team Area Two champion beat by Blue Ridge 25-4.

Game time for Payson vs. Holbrook is 4 p.m.

In the opener, Goodman said he would start Jordan Henderson on the hill, which would allow him to have standouts Westin Gibson and Jake Sleeper in reserve and ready to take on either Blue Ridge or Winslow if Payson advances.

The Rim stars enter the double elimination championships with one loss, having dropped a 2-1 extra inning heartbreaker to Winslow in the Area One shoot out.

Which means, Payson will be eliminated from pursuit of a district title and a berth to state if the team loses a single game.

In the Area One tournament, Payson opened with a convincing 12-5 win over Flagstaff. Gibson paced the team to the victory hurling a four-hitter and blasting two home runs.

In the next game, the Payson cause took a direct hit with the narrow loss to Winslow.

Refusing to cry over spilt Gatorade, Payson came roaring back with a 13-3 win over Mt. Elden and a 6-2 thumping of Page.

In the battle for second place and a seed into the district championships, Payson shut out Flagstaff Continental 6-0.

In all three of those crucial duels, the Payson stars played with their backs against the wall. A loss would have meant the end of the season and the demise of the players' goal to play in the state tournament.

In the showdown against Continental, Gibson once again turned in an exceptional performance hurling the complete game victory and slugging a two-run home run in the first inning.

Leading 2-0, Payson tacked on four insurance runs in the fourth inning on two walks, a bunt and Gibson's double.

Winslow, which finished as the undefeated Area One champion, will advance to districts as a No. 1 seed. Payson takes the two-seed to districts.

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