Payson's 10-11-year-old Little League All-Star team has taken a first step towards its goal of winning the town's first Arizona State championship.
The giant stride was achieved July 7 in Show Low, where Payson defeated the Flagstaff All-Stars, 17-7, to nail down the Area 1 and 2 and District 1 championships.
With those crowns in tow, the star squad will travel July 16 to Shea Middle School to compete in the state finals.
Over the course of the week, the Payson stars will compete in four pool games against champions from Districts 7 (Mesa), 12 (South Tucson), 8 (Douglas/Bisbee) and 2 (Arrowhead).
Should Payson reach the final four, those two games will be played July 24. The state championship game is set for the following day. All games are slated for Shea Middle School.
The Payson team will be only the fourth Rim Country team in local Little League history to earn a state berth.
Many of the players on this year's 10-11-year-old team were on last season's All-Star squad that came within a whisper of playing for the state crown.
In winning area and district titles during tournaments that began June 29 in Show Low, Payson finished with a 3-1 record, losing only a 7-1 decision to Flagstaff. Following the tournament semifinal loss to Flagstaff, Payson came roaring back with a vengeance the following day to dump Flagstaff in five innings on the 10-run mercy rule.
"The kids were down after the first loss, but picked their heads up and rebounded really well," said All-Star manager, Eddie Duran. "The first game, we didn't hit the ball, but came back to play like we knew we could."
The times and locations of state tournament games will be published in the July 13 edition of the Payson Roundup.