Gracie Haught Classic softball tournament director Charlene Hunt has her fingers crossed, hoping the second annual fast pitch showdown doesn't suffer the same fate it did last spring.
Hunt said, like everyone else, she's cheering for more snow and rain in the Rim Country, but she'd also like a weather respite March 24 and 25 so the Classic can be played without a hitch.
In the spring of 2005, rain and wet fields caused the cancellation of the second day of the inaugural fast pitch high school softball tournament.
The eight teams entered, played just three games each during the opening round robin before the benefit fray was called off.
At the time Hunt said, "The way the weather's been lately, we were lucky to get those games in."
As discouraging as not playing the inaugural Classic through to its finish was for Hunt, she's not about to let that disappointment slow her efforts in preparing for the upcoming skirmish.
Her plans are for the 10 teams entered to play opening day and early the second day in two pools of five teams each.
Pool A includes Desert Edge, Apache Junction, Benson, Queen Creek and Payson.
In Pool B are Prescott, Chandler Basha, Florence, Blue Ridge and Many Farms.
The Lady Longhorns play March 24 at:
- Noon vs. Desert Edge at Rumsey 1
- 3 p.m. vs. Benson at Rumsey 2
- 7:30 p.m. vs. Apache Junction at Rumsey 1
March 25 pool play:
- 10:30 a.m. vs. Queen Creek at Rumsey 2
Beginning at noon on the second day of the tournament, the teams will be seeded into a single elimination tournament in which the No. 3 finishers from each pool play No. 4 from the opposite pool. In the second round, No. 2 pool finishers play No. 5 and both pool champs play the winners of No. 3 vs. No. 4.
The championship game is set for 6 p.m. at Rumsey 1.
For games at Rumsey 2, Hunt will have a temporary fence erected 200 feet from home plate.
"That will allow the big hitters to capitalize on home runs," she said.
At the conclusion of the fray, a nine-player all-tournament team will be selected.
Jack in the Box to the rescue
The tournament received a huge boost financially when Payson Jack in the Box co-owners Bruce and Susie Haught stepped up last winter to become corporate sponsors.
Without Jack in the Box, Hunt said, "We would be struggling financially.
"The expenses for this type of tournament are formidable. It will cost us $1,800 for officials and around $500 for game balls."
Even after landing Jack in the Box, Hunt continued to seek more sponsorship.
"I always have my hand out when it comes to this tournament," she said.
Hunt has long been passionate about building the Classic into one of the finest high school competitions in Arizona, saying the event is a way of honoring the memory of 3-year-old Gracie Haught, who was killed Feb. 6, 2004 in a tragic accident in Star Valley.
At the time of Gracie's death, her mother, Bobbie Joe Haught, was the Lady Longhorns' junior varsity softball coach and the young girl was a frequent visitor to practice and games.
Following the toddler's death, hunt and coaches at Payson High met to organize the memorial tournament.
For the upcoming tournament, Hunt -- a longtime local softball player and coach who doubles as a Payson Parks and Recreation Specialist -- had hoped to field a 16-team tournament.
For that to occur, the two new all-weather fields at Rumsey Park would have to be available for tournament play.
"We had no guarantee the fields would be completed," Hunt said.
Without the two new fields, the fray will remain a 10-team tournament, as it was last year.
For more information about the tournament or to become a sponsor, call Hunt at (928) 474-5242, ext. 260.