A 13-2 victory over the Snowflake Lobos keeps the Longhorn baseball team undefeated (5-0) in East region action and sets up a crucial showdown today, Friday, against the potent Show Low Cougars.
Game time is 4 p.m. on PHS diamond.
The David Nikolaus-coached Cats enter today's clash sporting a 15-5 overall record and a 4-1 East mark.
Show Low's only region loss was 8-6 to the Longhorns on March 11.
If the Horns can slip past the Cougars and improve to 6-0, the team would have a solid shot at winning the East region title and advancing to state as a No. 1 seed.
But that could be a tall order since Nikolaus, a former three-sport star at SLHS, has the green and gold well coached and itching for a run at the 3A state championship.
In the Arizona Interscholastic Association power point standings, the Horns are the top ranked East team sitting at No. 8 among the 28 teams in the 3A conference.
Payson has accumulated 70.722 power points. With 84.70, Globe is ranked first.
Show Low is ranked No. 13 in points with 66.5.
In hosting the Cougars, coach Jerry Daniels will send to the mound probably the team's best pitcher at the moment.
Although junior right-hander Hunter Haynes sports a ho-hum 3-3 record he is currently the Horns' hottest hurler.
His 2.31 ERA is one of the best in the region and his 34 strikeouts ranks among the best in the conference.
He's also capable of keeping power hitters off balance as evidenced by his allowing just one home run and two triples this season.
If Haynes finds himself in trouble, Daniels has several capable relievers he can call upon for fireman's help.
They include Anthony Pearce (3-2), Weston Gibson (1-2) and Ryan Williams (0-0).
Offensively against Show Low, the Horns will field a potent lineup that includes Tyler Savage (.485), Gibson (.438), Ridge Halenar (.433), Ever Figueroa (.379) and Sean Dougherty (.373).
On the base paths, Savage is always a threat to steal having pilfered 12 bases in 12 attempts.
Dougherty has seven stolen bases and Haynes has swiped four.
Defensively, the Longhorns began the season playing sloppily in the field but have shown marked improvement in the last three games -- all East wins.
In the win over Snowflake, April 8 on PHS diamond, Daniels elected to start Dougherty, a seldom-used sophomore on the mound.
The teen responded with a solid effort in which he hurled the full five innings of the contest that was shortened on the 10-run rule. In facing 21 batters, he gave up three hits, one earned run, walked two and struck out four.
Halenar paced the "O" with a perfect 3-for-3 showing that included a double, a home run, two runs scored and two RBIs.
Savage's bat was also on fire pounding out three hits in four trips to the plate. He drove in two runs, scored twice and had a double.
Pearce was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI.
The hitting of Halenar, Savage and Pearce fueled the Horns eight-run second inning outburst that broke the game wide open after PHS had taken a 1-0 lead in the first.
Defensively, the Horns committed just one error.