Longhorns' 9-6 Loss Does Not Represent Team Efforts

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Statistics, as accurate as they might be, can never fully explain the determination of high school athletes when they step on the playing field.

Such was the case for starting pitcher Jacob Willis, in the Longhorns' 9-6 loss to the Winslow Bulldogs in the opening round of the state baseball tournament.

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Senior right-hander Jacob Willis took to the mound in a state tournament first round game, despite suffering a badly sprained ankle. Willis pitched well, but was saddled with the 9-6 loss to the Winslow Bulldogs. The game was played May 4 at Maryvale Baseball Park.

Stats show that Willis got the starting nod Friday from coach Jerry Daniels, hurled 6-1/3 innings and was saddled with the loss, after giving up seven hits and five earned runs.

Those statistics don't give Willis his due. He was, in reality, a warrior on the mound.

Pitching with a serious ankle injury that had him sidelined almost two weeks before the loss to North champion Winslow, Willis gave everything he had.

"He's tough, he's pitching on adrenaline," assistant coach Bruce Haught said from the PHS dugout.

Showing good velocity on most of his pitches, although the ankle obviously affected him, Willis kept the Bulldogs at bay the first three innings.

Winslow touched him, however, for three runs in the fourth, four in the fifth and two in the sixth.

Two of the Bulldog hits that caused the most damage, both triples, were sky-high fly balls to the outfield that the swirling 35-mph winds played tricks with.

On a calmer day, Longhorn outfielders might have caught the flies. Willis was also hampered by a Longhorn defense that committed three crucial errors.

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Tyler Savage, shown scoring the Horns first run of the game, finished 3-for-4 during the Longhorns state opening round loss to the Winslow Bulldogs.

In the game at Maryvale Baseball Park, the Horns jumped to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third, only to give up three runs to the Bulldogs in the next frame. Payson scored a single run again in the fifth, but trailed 9-2, entering the bottom of the seventh.

A four-run outburst pulled Payson to within three, but the rally wasn't enough.

Payson lit up Winslow starter Elfan Kinlicheenie for eight hits, including a 3-for-4 performance from Tyler Savage. Two of Savage's hits were triples. Hunter Haynes was 2-for-2 and drew two walks.

The loss eliminated Payson from the state tournament.

Winslow advanced to the Sweet 16 but was ousted Saturday in a 9-8 loss to Wickenburg.

In the Final Four, which will be played May 11 at Maryvale Baseball Park, the East region has two representatives.

Region champion Snowflake will take on Wickenburg and East runner-up Holbrook will play West champion Fountain Hills. The state championship will be played 8 p.m. May 12 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

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