Assistant coach Kadi Tenney is sure the festive but competitive atmosphere that permeated the air at the Blue Ridge vs. Payson showdown contributed to the Lady Horns' 4-3 victory.
"(The players) were pumped up playing in front of the home crowd, under the lights and the barbecue going on," she said.
The barbecue actually was a deep-pit beef cookout that drew hundreds of fans hungry for a lip-smackin' cowboy meal and a Lady Horn victory.
Also, the April 18 varsity game is the only one on the schedule that is played at night under the lights.
In the game, the Lady Horns (14-13 overall, 4-4 in the East) wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on senior Aubrey Laird's home run.
But in the third, the Yellow Jackets took a 3-1 lead scoring a trio of unearned runs courtesy of two PHS errors.
The outcome turned Payson's way in the bottom of the sixth.
Sarah Cadd led off the rally with a single that was followed by Skye McNeeley's bunt, a double by Laird, a Yellow Jacket error and Candice Johnson's single.
By the time the dust settled in the inning, PHS had regained the lead 4-3.
In Blue Ridge's last at-bats, Johnson -- who started on the hill -- shut out the Jackets.
Tenney called the senior hurler's effort, "the best game I have ever seen from her."
In seven full innings, Johnson did not give up an earned run while scattering three hits against one of the better slugging teams in the East region.
Johnson also shined at the plate finishing 2-for-3.
For Laird, the evening was all about her solid contributions that included scoring three of Payson's four runs, swatting two extra base hits and making a pair of outstanding defensive plays in left field.
"She made good catches on two deep fly balls," Tenney said.
With the win, the Lady Horns have just two games remaining in the regular season. They play today, April 22, against Whiteriver. Game time is 4 p.m. on PHS diamond.
The season wraps up April 25 at Snowflake against the Lobos.
Payson is currently is all alone in fourth place in the region standings but could move up a notch if Blue Ridge (5-3) stumbles in one of its two final games.
The state tournament, which the Lady Horns will make barring a complete collapse, begins May 2 in Phoenix.