Longhorns Garner East All-Region Honors

Coach Jerry Daniels named East coach of the year


High school teams that post winning records and win championships usually reap the rewards of the success during postseason voting for all-region, all-state and all-star team members.

True to form, that's exactly what happened to the East co-champion Longhorn baseball team when the results of all-region voting were announced early this week.


Coach Jerry Daniels, the East region Coach of the Year, discusses strategy with first baseman Anthony Pearce.

For the Horns, coach Jerry Daniels was selected East "Coach of the Year," a trio of players were named first team, three chosen second team and two received honorable mention.

With eight players and a coach chosen the best in the region, Payson was an honors leader among the East schools.

The Horns first team members included Ridge Halenar, Tyler Savage and Hunter Hayes. On the second team were Ever Figueroa, Anthony Pearce and Weston Gibson.

Nick Abraham and Nick Herring were honorable mention.

Last season, Daniels led the Longhorns to a 16-13 record, 9-1 in the East and a share of the East region title with the Show Low Cougars.

He also engineered the team into the state playoffs where the Horns lost a 1-0 extra-inning heartbreaker to Chino Valley.


Tyler Savage

Daniels has been at the helm of the PHS baseball program since 2005 when he was selected to replace Teddy Pettet who stepped down to move out of state.

Previously, Daniels was the junior varsity coach under Pettet.

While Daniels now focuses on baseball, he has previously coached football and girls basketball at Payson High School.

Halenar's selection to the first team is a no-brainer mostly because he is acknowledged as one of the finest all-around players in both the East and 3A conference.

Although East coaches selected Blue Ridge's Terry Dempsey the region's Player of the Year, many suspect the honor should have gone to Halenar. In fact, the magazine Sports Zone, which is published in Lakeside where Blue Ridge High School is located, selected Halenar its Player of the Year.

Sports Zone says a panel that included 3A East baseball coaches and qualified magazine staff members did its selections.

Last season, Halenar hit .437 including eight doubles, three triples and a team-leading six home runs.

He led the Horns in RBIs with 38, scored 87 runs and struck out only five times in 29 games.


Hunter Haynes

Defensively, he has been the Horns' starting catcher since he was a freshman and is widely considered one of the finest at his position in the state.

At the onset of the season, Daniels tinkered with the idea of using Halenar as a pitcher. But because several other hurlers on the staff stepped up, Halenar only pitched three innings.

Savage led the Longhorns in hitting with a .437 average that included eight doubles and two triples. He also scored 24 times, drove in 27 runs and was the Horns' leading base stealer with 14.

Defensively, he was stellar committing just one error the entire season.

In addition to his baseball talents, Savage stars in basketball and football.

Mention Hunter Haynes' name around the East region and it will inspire thoughts of one of the finest pitchers in small-town Arizona.

Although he finished with a misleading 5-5 record, Haynes dominated opposing hitters as evidenced by his 1.856 ERA. He led the Horns in strikeouts with 56 and walked only eight of the 255 batters he face.

That accuracy mark is remarkable in Class 3A baseball.


Ridge Halenar

Haynes' finest outing might have been against Chino Valley in the Longhorns' 1-0 state championship tournament loss.

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.

Although he was forced to absorb the gut-wrenching loss, a single run in regulation play would have reversed the tables and he would have walked away with a "W."

Offensively, Haynes hit .295 with 14 RBIs and 16 runs scored.

Second team

Figueroa finished with a banner season in which he hit .400, knocked in 17 runs, played solid defense and stole two bases.

Pearce, one of four seniors the Horns will be losing to graduation, posted a 3-3 pitching record with a 3.182 ERA. All season long he showed decent control walking only 11 of the 155 batters he faced and was not prone to giving batters the long ball allowing only one home run.

When not pitching, Pearce held down the first base slot where he had a .936 fielding percentage. At the plate, he hit .353 with seven doubles.

Gibson, only a freshman, obviously oozes with enough potential to become one of the finest baseball players to ever don a Longhorn uniform.

Playing in his first varsity season as a 14-year-old, he hit at a .417 clip with 26 runs scored, 14 RBIs, a team high 10 doubles, two triples and a home run.

About the only knock on the plebe is he struck out too many times (17) but patience at the plate comes with maturity and experience, which Gibson has three more years to gain.

The frosh also showed signs of someday becoming a standout pitcher. He posted a 2-1 record, a 5.861 ERA and struck out 19 of the 75 batters he faced.

Honorable mention

Herring was another potent hitter in a Longhorn lineup that featured 10 players with battering averages over the magical .300 mark. He compiled a .400 average with 13 runs scored, 13 RBIs and four stolen bases.

Abraham hit .306 with 15 runs scored and 10 RBIs. He also stole three bases and fielded at a .857 clip.

With the region selections over, next on the prep baseball agenda is the selection of the seniors who will play in the Arizona Coaches Association All-Star game when it is contested at 7 p.m. June 7 in Surprise Stadium.

Daniels said the announcement of those who made the all-star team would be announced next week.

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