Armed with a senior hurler boasting four years varsity experience, the Lady Longhorns travel today, Friday, to Wickenburg where the softball team will compete in the 18-team Wrangler Classic.
Candice Johnson, daughter of former PHS softball coach Curtis Johnson, will be the Horns No. 1 hurler in the tournament.
"She has the experience and is very good with the timing of her pitches," Lady Horn coach Will Dunman said. "Her timing keeps the hitters off balance."
Johnson tuned up for the classic in the Horns season opening 15-2 win over the Holbrook Roadrun-ners. In facing 13 batters, she struck out seven and was credited with the victory.
Last spring as a junior, Johnson was chosen to the East all-region first team.
As a sophomore, she had a season most players only dream about.
In addition to being named all-state and all-region, Johnson was chosen to the Class 3A Arizona State Tournament team after posting a .670 ERA in three games she pitched in the finals.
During the regular season, Johnson led the team in hitting with a .473 average and had a 14-7 record as a hurler.
Her pitching and hitting helped lead the Lady Longhorns to the final four of the state tournament.
Backing up Johnson this season will be sophomore Mary Hagen, who no-hit Holbrook in her two-inning varsity debut.
"She is a hard worker and will be picking up experience this season," Dunman said.
"She wants to do anything she can to benefit the team."
As a team, Dunman is adamant the Wickenburg tournament will be the key to success down the schedule road.
"It is going to give us some good experience and will be an opportunity to evaluate ourselves and make improvements before the East games begin," he said. "I feel good about our defense and our hitting.
"The girls are learning all they have to do is keep the ball in play, not hit home runs."
In Wickenburg tournament pool action today, Payson plays Desert Edge at 8 a.m. and Coolidge at 9:30 a.m. The Lady Horns wrap up the three-game set at 1:30 p.m. vs. Benson.
The results of those games will be used to seed the team into a double elimination tournament to be played tomorrow, Saturday.
Among the teams Dunman picks as pre tournament championship favorites are defending 3A state champion Wickenburg, Benson and Glendale Apollo.
"All those teams have good pitching," he said.