Even though the Lady Longhorns (10-12 overall, 2-3 in the East) have fallen to fourth in the East standings, assistant coach Kadi Tenney remains convinced the team is as good as any of its region foes.
"The frustration is that we have not seen a 3A East team we can't beat," she said. "Everyone is playing on the same level and the games are up for grabs."
But the problem in being in fourth place is that if the team finishes the season there, it would have to depend on AIA power points for a seed into the postseason.
Only the top three teams from each of the four 3A regions earn automatic berths. Power points are used to seed the four other tournament teams into the state playoffs.
Currently, the Lady Horns are ranked ninth in 3A power points with 63.778.
Blue Ridge (14-9 and 3-2), Show Low (7-4-1 and 3-0) and Snowflake (17-8 and 3-1) are all ranked ahead of Payson.
The frustration Tenney, head coach Will Dunman and the players are experiencing heightened April 8 on PHS diamond during a 9-7 loss to Snowflake.
"We jumped on them 2-0 in the first, but the third inning was mess and they scored five runs on a combination of hits and errors with two outs," Tenney said.
The Lady Horns scored a run of their own in the bottom of the third to pull within 5-3.
After both teams tallied two runs each in the fourth frame, the Lobos tacked on singles runs in the top of the sixth and seven to take a 9-5 lead into the bottom of the inning.
"We made a solid comeback effort scoring two runs but we just couldn't finish it," Tenney said.
Senior Candice Johnson, the Lady Horns ace all season long, started on the mound and absorbed the loss.
"Candice held her own," Tenney said.
The hurler also performed well at the plate finishing 2-for-2 with two singles and a walk. Cydney Figueroa led the hit parade with a 3-for-3 effort that included two singles, a double and a walk.
As hard as the team fought for the win, the defeat was tough to absorb.
"We took the loss as a team, coaches included," Tenney said. "There were several things that could have easily swayed the game in the other direction."
Next up for the Lady Horns is an April 11 date with the Show Low Cougars. Game time is 4 p.m. on PHS diamond.
After playing Chino Valley on April 12 in a non-region skirmish, the Horns wrap up the regular season with four crucial East games. The results will determine the Lady Horns' postseason fate.
Deep Pit cookin' coupled with diamond action
In that stint of games is the 6th Annual Softball Deep Pit Beef Dinner to be held from 4 to 7 p.m. April 18 at Lady Longhorn softball field.
Event coordinator Charlene Hunt is predicting a large crowd.
"We're preparing more (food), people enjoy this evening and want to come out to help the softball team," she said.
SemStream is co-sponsoring the event.
In addition to the delicious cowboy meal, a pair of softball games is on the agenda. The junior varsity will play at 4 p.m. and the varsity about 7 p.m. The opponent for both games will be the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.
Tickets to the dinner are $5 and available at the game or by calling (928) 468-1838.