Manager Slade Gibson is still enthusiastic about his players, even after the Payson 9-10-year-old Little League All-Star team ended the postseason with a 2-2 finish in Area 1.
"Our kids never got down, never hung their heads," he said. "They kept battling, even when they were behind."
The manager's passion for his players has its roots in a heartbreaking 16-15 loss to Page that eliminated Payson from the tournament.
Playing July 7 at Mark Grace Field in Flagstaff, the Rim All-Star crew fell behind Page, 7-0, in the bottom of the first inning.
"Most teams would have given up at that point," Gibson said. "But we didn't."
Refusing to be denied, the Payson athletes battled back into contention to dead knot the crucial clash 15-15 in the top of the sixth.
In the bottom of the frame, however, Page scored the winning run from second on a deep fly ball to right field that Payson's fielder couldn't flag down.
"It was a tough loss, but the kids stayed positive," Gibson said.
During the tournament, which began June 29, Payson chalked up wins over Flagstaff, 11-7 and Coconino, 8-7, but lost to both Winslow, 12-7 and to Page.
Gibson said although the team's ouster from the tournament was a disappointment, the All-Stars are young players who will have many opportunities down the Little League road to again play in the postseason.
"It's just beginning for them," Gibson said.