Winding Up For Postseason Play

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Payson Little League will break with tradition and send three all-star teams into the postseason, rather than two, as the Rim Country has done in past years.

The teams will include a crew of 9- and 10-year-olds, another from the 10/11-years division and an 11/12-year-olds entry.

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Little League players in three age groups have their sights set on earning spots on Payson All-Star teams that will represent the Rim Country in postseason area, district and state tournaments to be held around Arizona.

Although some age groups overlap, all-star players selections will be based on the age group the athlete participated in during the regular season.

Although postseason plans are still being formalized, the 10- and 11-year-olds will open pursuit of an area, district and state championships in Show Low and the 11- and 12-year-olds are set to make the four-hour trek to Page.

A site for the 9- and 10-year-olds' tournament has not been set.

In Payson, regular season play in the five team Major Division wraps up June 8. Minor Division play for the four teams in the league ends June 7 and AAA or coach pitch games wrapped up Thursday.

Coaches are expected to select all-star players by mid-June and have about two weeks of practice before opening tournament play.

A huge query facing players, coaches, fans and parents centers on whether the new all-star teams have the talent and moxie to repeat the success the 9- and 10-year-olds' team enjoyed last summer when the Craig McMullen-coached crew came within an eyelash of advancing to the state final four.

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Little League players have seen their share of ups and downs during a season that began in April and will culminate next week with postseason play.

A combination of math and fate kept the Rim Country stars from advancing, after the team posted a 9-2 tournament record that included Area One and District One championships.

A controversial "ratio of runs allowed per defensive inning" tiebreaker sent Tucson Sabino to the semifinals, rather than Payson.

Had the Rim Country athletes scored one more in a 13-2 win over Sabino, Payson would have earned the final four berth, instead of the Tucson team.

That team's state showing, however, was the finest a Payson Little League team ever turned in.

Because 10 of the 14 all-star players from last year's squad return to the fold, optimism is rampant locally about the team's chances in the postseason.

The team could be pitching rich with 2006 standouts Nick McMullen, Miguel Mendoza, Daily Carnes and Blake Cannon returning to the team.

Little League area, district and tournament schedules are expected to be finalized in mid-June.

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