Although the result of the 3A state tournament opener wasn't what Longhorn fans were hoping for, the clash was one of the most hotly contested and well played games in prep baseball history.
The classic went nine full innings, or two extra, before the Chino Valley Cougars finally prevailed 1-0 over coach Jerry Daniels' Horn nine.
"We played really well, but couldn't score that run we needed," Daniels said. "In one inning, we had runners on second and third with no outs, but didn't score.
After both teams battled to a scoreless tie through eight frames, CV tallied the winning run in the top of the ninth on a two out RBI single to right field. The base knock scored a CV runner who had opened the inning with a double and advanced to third on an infield ground out. Following the out, Daniels opted to intentionally walk the next two batters to set up plays at any base.
A fly ball out to short right field was the second out and set the stage for CV's game-winning single.
Payson had one final chance to tie up the score in the bottom of the ninth, but couldn't muster a run.
Lost in the disappointment of the loss was a stellar defensive effort in which Payson did not commit an error and a standout pitching performance from Hunter Haynes.
The junior right-hander hurled all nine innings, giving up just seven hits and one walk. He also struck out five and allowed only one extra base hit.
The Horn woes can be attributed to an anemic six-hit attack that featured only one PHS hitter, freshman Weston Gibson, who had more than one hit.
In four plate appearances, Gibson swatted two singles.
Nick Herring, Devin England, Sean Dougherty and Haynes also singled.
Chino entered the first-round game as a No. 8 seed from the West region. After edging Payson, the Cougars pulled off the upset of the post season, beating No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Globe 5-3. With the win, CV plays in the state semifinals May 9 in Surprise against No. 5 seeded Fountain Hills.
In the other semifinal bracket, No. 14 Safford will play No. 2 Winslow.
The survivors of those two games will meet at 7 p.m. May 10 for the state championship.
Payson entered the state tournament as a No. 12 seed and the East region regular season co-champion along with Show Low.
The Horns wrapped up the year 16-13 overall and 9-1 in the region.
Next year, the Horns return all but four seniors who will graduate in the spring with the class of 2008.
If Daniels can find replacements for the four -- Anthony Pearce, Nick Herring, Nick Abraham and Kevin Bryant -- the team could be a state championship contender.