Veteran Payson High School baseball coach Jerry Daniels wanted his Longhorn team to have plenty of tuneup games before the all-important East region campaign tips off March 11 at Show Low.
Daniels received just what he was hoping for in the form of two tournaments -- the Mohave Valley Invitational and Miami Vandal Copper Classic.
The Mohave Valley fray will mark the opening of the new season, since a clash scheduled for Feb. 26 against Holbrook was postponed until March 19.
If the Horns are to be successful in playing 10 games over the course of nine days, Daniels must find several strong-armed pitchers able to shoulder the lengthy hurling load.
The possibilities include four right-handers and a southpaw.
The righties are Hunter Haynes, Sean Dougherty, Anthony Pearce, Ridge Halenar and Tyler Savage.
Haynes, Pearce, Halenar and Savage are veteran players who were members of last year's team that advanced to the state tournament.
Payson's lone lefthander is junior Ryan Williams, who played in the outfield last season.
For 2008, the Longhorn roster is top heavy with seven juniors who mostly were starters last year. The team has only four seniors -- Kevin Bryant, Nick Abraham, Pearce and Herring.
One freshman, Westin Gibson, has made the varsity.
At Mohave Valley near Laughlin, Nev., the Horns open pursuit of a title yesterday, Thursday, against both Yuma and Flagstaff Coconino.
Today, Friday, Payson plays at 1 p.m. against Joseph City and against at 3:30 p.m. vs. host River Valley.
Last year, the Horns opened with a 3-2 loss to Mohave. Also on opening day, Payson fell 11-2 to Fountain Hills before rebounding to whip River Valley 4-3. On the second day of the tournament, the Horns fell to an old rival from the 4A Grand Canyon region, Flagstaff Sinagua, by an 8-5 measure.
Following the appearance at Mohave, PHS travels to Miami for the Copper Classic.
The Longhorns open at 11 a.m. March 5 against Globe. Play continues the same day at 5:30 p.m. vs. San Carlo. On March 6, Payson plays at 1 p.m. against San Manuel.
The tournament wraps up for PHS March 7 with games at 9 a.m. (vs. Miami) and 1 p.m. (vs. Superior).