The Payson Little League all-stars were one tie breaker away from the final four of the Arizona state tournament.
But a combination of math and fate kept the team from advancing to the next level. Instead of moving on, the Rim Little Leaguers had to settle for a 4-2 record and a fifth place tournament finish in the field of 14 of Arizona's finest teams.
The tournament scenario unfolded July 28 in Cottonwood where three teams in Pool A -- Payson, Sabino and Verde Valley -- tied in the final standings with identical 4-2 records.
The tiebreaker used to determine which team, of the three, advanced to the semifinals was the result of head-to-head meetings.
Payson had been victorious over Sabino, Verde Valley beat Payson and Sabino whipped Verde Valley.
Rules dictated the tie would be broken by a ratio of runs allowed per defensive inning in pool play.
"As it turns out, Sabino's runs/innings ratio was .908 and Payson's was .933, so Sabino advanced," All-Star coach Craig McMullen said.
Little League officials say the finish among the three teams was one of the closest in Arizona tournament history.
As competitive as the state tournament turned out to be, Payson wrapped up play with the finest showing ever turned in by a Rim Country 9-10-year-old All-Star team.
In the postseason, the team posted a 9-2 record that included Area One and District One championships.
In both tournaments, Payson posted undefeated records winning most games on the 10-run mercy rule.
In the postseason, Payson outscored its opponents by a whopping 177-37 margin.
In the state showdown, the Rim stars outscored their foes 71-28.
Payson opened the tournament on a tear defeating Tucson Pantano, 13-0; Casa Grande, 15-0; and Blythe, Calif., 12-2.
But in July 24 pool play, Payson lost 13-10 to Verde Valley. After a one-day rain delay, the Payson stars returned to Cottonwood where they dropped a hard fought 7-4 decision to eventual state champion Lookout Mountain.
In the finale, Payson returned to its winning ways, defeating Sabino 13-2.
If the game had not been called off after four innings on the 10-run rule, Payson would have had the opportunity to win by an even greater margin that would have improved the runs/innings ratio used in the tiebreaker.
Also, Payson led in the bottom of the fourth 13-0 over Sabino but gave up two runs, which eventually proved to be the decider in the tiebreaker ratio.
"We knew we had to win by (at least) 12 runs (to advance to the semifinals)," McMullen. "We came so close."
As narrow as the final decision was, McMullen made no excuses, saying the team played their hearts out in the tournament and represented the community to the best of their abilities.
"We couldn't have asked for anything more from them," he said.
No. 1 Dailey Carnes
No. 2 Konner Duran
No. 4 Nathan Arnold
No. 5 Tyus Sarnowski
No. 6 Skyler Tuer
No. 7 Zach Wolf
No. 9 Tanner Purtill
No. 10 Miguel Mendoza
No. 11 Nick McMullen
No. 12 Blake Cannon
No. 13 Chris Cooper
No. 14 Chance Randall