Play Ball -- The Rain And Snow Will Follow

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Former Payson High School baseball coach, athletic director and principal Tom Meck was convinced there was a surefire way to end a Rim Country drought.

His solution to dry spells wasn't a rain dance but rather, "Start baseball season. I guarantee it will then rain and snow."

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Jacob Willis, a right-handed pitcher and infielder, uncorks a pitch during a practice session on Longhorn field.

Although Meck is now retired and living in the sun-drenched Valley, his harbingers continue to hold true in the mountains.

For proof, turn back to March 10, just about the time the Longhorns were ready to make a run at Miami Copper Classic tournament honors.

A day into the fray, rain and snow pounded Arizona, forcing cancellation of the final day of the six-team diamond shootout.

The snowfall also forced postponement of a pair of East region games set for March 14 vs. Holbrook and March 17 in Snowflake.

In the Miami tournament, March 8 to 11, the Horns played only two of the five scheduled games before the inclement weather forced cancellation of the showdown. Those games will not be rescheduled.

The East games will be made up March 27 (vs. Holbrook in Payson) and March 30 (in Snowflake).

Which means, the Horns now face the arduous task of finding the starting pitching to play four games in five days.

In addition to the two make-up games, the Horns play March 28 vs. Blue Ridge in Payson, and March 31 vs. Camp Verde in Payson.

The Horns also face an East region showdown March 24 against Alchesay in Whiteriver.

"All those games are going to make it tough on us," coach Jerry Daniels said.

Compounding the Longhorns' task is that five of the upcoming six games are region skirmishes. Which means, the results of those will play a huge role in determining the East's four seeds into the season ending Class 3A state tournament.

To remain in the running for a state berth, the Horns must win a minimum of two of those games.

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Good pitching will be the name of the game when the Longhorns return to East region action March 24 against Alchesay.

A trio of wins would be a good omen and anything over three is a nice-sized bonus.

In Miami

Battling in the Copper Classic, the Horns dropped a 4-2 decision to Globe and a 10-9 heartbreaker to San Manuel before rain put an end to the fray.

In falling to Globe, the Horns jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth only to see the Tigers rally for two in the fourth.

In Payson's next at-bat, the Horns rallied for a single run to tie the showdown at 2-2.

The Tigers, however, scratched back with two runs in the bottom of the sixth, which eventually proved to be the winning tallies.

Junior right-hander Jason Sweet started on the hill and at times was overwhelming. In facing 32 batters, he struck out 13.

However, he also gave up eight hits including a home run. The four runs scored against him were all earned.

Offensively, Sweet was one-for-three with an RBI.

Matt Levac, who also finished one-for-three, pounded out the Horns only extra base hit -- a double.

All afternoon long the Horns struggled at the plate with just four hits, nine K's, and four base runners left stranded.

If there was a glimmer of offensive hope in the tough loss it was on the base paths as Horn runners were successful on three theft attempts. Down the schedule road, that could translate into a PHS advantage in that those runners have the potential of keeping opposing pitchers off balance, worrying about possible steal attempts.

In the nail biting one-run loss to San Manuel, Jacob Willis drew the starting nod from Daniels and hurled four frames before giving way to sophomore Anthony Pearce.

Willis gave up six earned runs, seven hits and struck out four.

In two innings of relief, Pearce allowed three runs on three hits.

At the plate, Andy Sanders was two-for-three with an RBI and a run scored. Matt Behrens and Albert Talamonte also had two hits each.

LeVac and Sweet both punched round-trip tickets.

Entering the top of the seventh in the cliff hanger, Payson trailed the Miners 9-7. After scoring two runs to tie the game, the Horns needed only to shut SM down in the bottom of the frame to force the clash into extra innings.

Much to the chagrin of Payson faithful, the Longhorn pitching and defense faltered, giving up a single winning run.

Daniels said the cancellation of the final two games of the tournament put a crimp in his plans since he planned on using the games as tune-ups for the upcoming East campaign.

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