Good food, good softball and good times.
Those will be the themes of the Gracie Haught Payson 2008 Classic prep softball tournament as it unfolds March 28-29 at Rumsey Park.
"Everyone -- the players, the fans and the parents -- will have a great time," tournament director Charlene Hunt said.
Eight teams from around the state, representing school size classifications 2A to 5A, are slated to participate in the springtime diamond shoot out.
During the first day of competition, the teams will be aligned in two four-team pools.
The Lady Longhorns find themselves in pool B along with Queen Creek, Snowflake and Mesa Dobson. In pool A are Blue Ridge, Florence, Wickenburg and Benson.
Payson plays opening day at:
- 10 a.m. vs. Queen Creek on Rumsey III
- 2:30 p.m. vs. Snowflake on Rumsey III
- 5:30 p.m. vs. Dobson on Rumsey II
The results of round robin pool play will be used to seed the teams into a consolation bracket on Saturday.
In it, the champions from the two pools open against the fourth place finishers of the opposite pools. Also runners-up play third place finishers in the first round. The championship game will be played at 5 p.m. on Rumsey II.
Since the Rumsey II field does not have a regulation 200-foot outfield fence, one will be erected for the tournament.
If it rains, which has been a common occurrence at past Gracie Haught tournaments, the games would be rescheduled for the two new artificial surface fields located in southwest Rumsey Park.
The greatest disruption occurred in the spring of 2005, when rain and wet fields caused the cancellation of the second day of the tournament.
The eight teams entered, played just three games each during the opening round robin before the benefit fray was called off.
Hunt is hoping that doesn't happen again.
"I'm praying for great weather, it's due," she said.
During Friday's play, the concession stand's feature of the day will be home made tacos.
On Saturday, carne asada cooked on an outside grill will be the food of choice. Prices have not been set for the food items, but there is no admission charge to any of the tournament games.
Benson a solid gold pick
If there is a favorite in the tournament field it has to be Benson, which enters the Gracie Haught fray fresh off winning Wickenburg Wrangler Classic. In it, Benson rolled through pool play undefeated and beat Santa Cruz 8-0 in the championship finale.
Benson's victory run in pool action included a 7-1 win over the Lady Horns.
Payson will be buoyed during the tournament by the pitching of senior Candace Johnson who was named to the Wickenburg all-tournament team.
The Lady Horns have also received stellar play from Hannah Armenta, Riley Halenar Aubrey Laird and Skye McNeeley.
Standout players will be eligible for the nine-person all-tournament team to be chosen by coaches and scorekeepers.
Also, trophies will be awarded to the first through third place finishing teams.
Hunt has long been passionate about building the Classic into one of the finest high school competitions in Arizona, saying the event is a way of honoring the memory of 3-year-old Gracie, who was killed Feb. 6, 2004 in a tragic accident in Star Valley.
At the time of Gracie's death, her mother, Bobbie Joe Haught, was the Lady Longhorns' junior varsity softball coach and the young girl was a frequent visitor to practice and games.
Following the toddler's death, Hunt and coaches at Payson High met to organize the memorial tournament.
"We wanted to honor her family and all that Bobbie Jo had done for the program," coach Will Dunman said.
"It is our way of showing our respect for Gracie and the family."