A fourth consecutive trip to the Little League Arizona State Championships could be just over the horizon for the Payson 12-year-old all-star team.
But before the young players begin celebrating the possible journey, all-star coach Craig McMullen is cautioning his players that the prestigious berth is only an "if."
Of course, that's a big "if," because the local all-stars must win tonight, July 8, or a follow up game, if they are to nail down the state seed.
Game time is 7 p.m. today in Winslow against the winner of an elimination game pitting Blue Ridge against Flagstaff Continental.
Whichever team wins, BR or Flag, and advances to play Payson in the District championship game, that squad would have to beat the Rim Country All-Stars twice to earn the title.
That's because Payson is 4-0 in the double-elimination tournament and all other contenders have at least one loss.
If Payson does make it to state as the Division 1 champion, the tournament would be hosted by Flagstaff Continental Little League.
Playing in the cool pines of Flagstaff would be a huge improvement over toiling in the Valley where many postseason games are played.
The Payson celestial nine remained undefeated in the postseason with a 9-2 victory over Blue Ridge.
In the win chalked up July 3 in Winslow, Blake Cannon -- son of all-star manager Brent Cannon -- started on the hill and hurled five innings before being removed on league rules that limit the number of pitches a player can throw in a game.
The law restricts the count to 85 pitches and Cannon had thrown 81 at the time he was removed.
"He could have thrown a few more pitches, but I didn't want to have to change pitchers in the middle of an inning," Brent Cannon said.
During Blake's stint on the mound he struck out nine, gave up three hits and allowed one earned run.
"He pitched a gem," McMullen said.
Daily Karnes replaced Cannon and churned out a workman like a three-up, three-down final inning mops up appearance.
Offensively, Chance Randall and Tanner Purtill both swatted two-run home runs.
In earlier postseason action in Winslow, Payson edged homestanding Winslow 6-5 and took mercy-rule wins over Continental, 10-0 and Coconino, 14-1.
In Payson's one-run win over Winslow, the Rim stars had to overcome questionable officiating for the win.
Much of the credit for the come-from-behind victory is being heaped on Miguel Mendoza who came on in relief to hurl what coaches called an outstanding game.
Mendoza also hit a clutch triple in the bottom of the fifth inning that scored both the tying and winning runs.
Should Payson win the District 1 championship this week, it would mark the fourth consecutive year the team has won the title.
In 2006, the group -- then 9-10-year-olds-- turned in the best finish in local Little League history by winning area and district crowns before finishing fourth in the state finals.
"I hope the people realize just how good this group of boys really is," Brent Cannon said.
The all-star team is comprised of outstanding players from the Little League regular season and chosen by the coaches.
The players are Miguel Mendoza, Dallen McNabb, Austin Young, Nick McMullen, Tyrus Sarnowski, Zach Wolf, Konner Duran, Daily Karnes, Randall, Cannon and Purtill.
Payson has only one other baseball team remaining in postseason play. The 9-10-years team, managed by Denver White and coached by Ty Goodman, has won the area title and will play this week in Taylor for the District championships.
Also, Payson has two Little League fast pitch softball teams entered, for the first time ever, in Area 1 tournament play in Flagstaff and Taylor.
Payson's senior league team was eliminated after going 0-2 in the Area 1 tournament held in Page. The 10-11-years were eliminated after posting a 1-2 record in Flagstaff.