Horns In Hunt For Copper Classic Title

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The Longhorn baseball team travels to the Copper Classic Tournament in Miami looking to improve upon the 2-3 record it compiled in the Mohave Invitational.

In Miami, the Horns played yesterday, March 9, against San Manuel (results not available at press time), today at 1:30 p.m. against Miami and at 3:45 p.m. vs. Superior.

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A Payson High School base runner is forced to abort his run to second base when the Winslow second baseman prepares to turn a double play.

"We are looking forward to it (the tournament)," coach Jerry Daniels said. "It will be a good opportunity for us."

In the Mohave tournament, contested March 1 to 4 near Laughlin, Nev., the Horns opened with a 3-2 loss to Mohave. Also on opening day, Payson fell 11-2 to Fountain Hills before rebounding to whip River Valley 4-3. On the second day of the tournament, the Horns fell to an old rival from the 4A Grand Canyon region, Flagstaff Sinagua, by an 8-5 measure.

PHS wrapped up its tournament stay with an 8-3 win over Chino Valley.

In the Horns only non-tournament game thus far in the season, on March 28 against Sedona Redrock, the Horns survived a 3-1 thriller.

Believe it or not, that game was shortened to three innings due to rain.

Yes, rain -- you remember the stuff.

"It drizzled for three innings and the mound got so wet the pitchers couldn't stand on it," Daniels said. "So, the game was called (off)."

In the victory, senior catcher Matt LeVac opened the season on a hot note, swatting a single and double in two plate appearances.

Jacob Willis ripped a second inning triple and later scored the Horns' second run.

Freshman Tyler Savage made his varsity debut as the Horns lead-off hitter and scored Payson's first run after getting aboard on an error in center field and advancing on LeVac's single.

Rolling on the river

In the one-run loss to Mohave, Payson scored single runs in the first and second innings to take a 2-0 cushion into the fourth frame. Mohave scored a single run to close the lead to 2-1.

In the bottom of the fifth, Mohave took advantage of Payson's infield error to tally two runs and nail down the win.

Junior righthander Jason Sweet gave up just two base hits but was forced to absorb the hard luck loss. Sweet struck out two, walked three and stranded five Mohave base runners.

In the loss to state-ranked Fountain Hills, freshman Hunter Haynes got the starting nod from Daniels and held powerful FH scoreless until the fifth inning.

With Payson holding a precarious 2-1 lead, the wheels came off the Longhorn wagon when Fountain rallied for 10 runs in the inning.

The incredible come-from-behind effort was fueled by two Payson errors and Mother Nature.

"The wind was really blowing and it turned some flyballs that were easy outs into base hits," Daniels said. "It was one of those days."

Undaunted by the loss, Payson returned to tournament play with the one-run victory over River Valley.

The Horns scored three runs in the first and what eventually proved to be the winning run in the third frame when Andy Sanders singled, stole second, advanced to third on an error and crossed the plate on a single by Nick Abraham.

After coming out on the short end of the score against Sinagua, the Horns rode a seven-run second inning outburst to the win over Chino Valley.

LeVac paced the offense with two singles and two runs scored.

Willis came up just short of hitting for the circuit, swatting a triple, double and single in three appearances.

Senior Matt Behrens hurled four innings and was credited with the victory.

Shawn Christensen pitched the final inning in relief.

The stats

Entering the Copper Classic, Willis leads the team in hitting, with a .535 average. LeVac sports a .533 mark.

RBI leaders include Willis with three and Christensen and Sweet who have two each.

In early season, the speedy Horns have a trio of players -- Savage, Sanders and LeVac -- with three stolen bases each.

Tony Renna is the mound staff's ERA leader at 1.61.

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