Show Low Cougars' baseball coach David Nikolaus knows the Payson Longhorns are a resilient, strong-willed team.
That was evident following the Horns' 10-3 loss to SL on April 11, when Nikolaus said, "Payson is tough, I'm sure they'll bounce back."
Like the Cat coach predicted, PHS rebounded days later to shut out Round Valley, 5-0, and Blue Ridge, 2-0.
With the two victories, the Longhorns improve to 7-1 in the East and are tied with Show Low for the region lead.
If the Horns win their final two games -- April 22 vs. Alchesay and April 25 vs. Snowflake -- the worst the team could do is a tie for the region championship.
Of course, Rim Country fans will be hoping Show Low falls in one of its two final games, which could mean the Horns would win the title outright and take the East's No. 1 seed to the state tournament.
All season long the regular season title chase has been a two-team affair between Payson and Show Low. With the season winding down, the best Blue Ridge (4-4), Snowflake (4-4) and Round Valley (2-6) can hope for is a third or fourth state seed.
In edging Blue Ridge April 18 on PHS diamond, the Horns rode the stellar pitching of junior Hunter Haynes to the win.
Haynes hurled the full seven innings, allowing five hits while striking out nine and walking two.
Offensively, Nick Herring and Tyler Savage were both 2-for-3 against BR pitcher Nick Johnson.
Although Payson pounded eight hits, there was none of the team's usual extra base power on display.
All the hits were singles.
In the well-played skirmish, neither team committed an error, which is a rarity in small-town prep baseball.