Payson's first-ever Little League fastpitch girls softball program is up, running and purring like a fine-tuned power block V-8.
"It's finally here, we have a start and it's very exciting," said Thunder assistant coach Felicia Moore.
Payson Elementary School teacher Allison Randall, who helped found the league, agrees, "It is fantastic; so much fun."
Although the league has only been in existence about a month, twice weekly games are now played in two leagues on the Payson High School girls softball diamond.
In the minor division, for girls 9 to 11 years of age, Force, Sunbird and Thunder play round robin games.
The major division, which is for girls 11 to 12 years of age, the Bandits, Heat and Riptide are battling for supremacy.
About the only glitch in the program has been pitching expertise in the minor division.
"The girls really didn't have the skills, at first, to pitch," Moore said. "So, we used a pitching machine, but we are now moving along asking the girls to pitch."
The lack of fundamental fast-pitch skills in prospective middle and high school players is one of the reasons the new league was founded.
Many of the girls trying out for teams at those two schools did not have fastpitch skills because local town youth leagues play only slow-pitch softball.
Which meant, when PHS and RCMS teams played other towns and schools that had lower level fast-pitch programs, the Lady Horns and Lady Mavericks were at a disadvantage.
With fast-pitch teams now playing in Payson, Lady Horn coach Will Dunman is anticipating an influx of capable pitchers on the middle- and high-school level.
The coach was among those who campaigned last spring to bring Little League fast-pitch to the Rim Country.
Moore credits former PHS softball coach Curtis Johnson, now the RCMS coach, for his efforts in helping mold fledgling minor division pitchers.
"He has been a blessing," she said. "He works with the girls and teaches them the (correct) pitching skills."
Johnson is the father of Candice Johnson who has been Payson High's pitching ace the past four seasons.
With league play now steaming ahead, next on the Little League agenda is post-season area and district tournaments set to begin July 7, possibly at Blue Ridge, Winslow or Flagstaff.
Coaches will gather later this season to select the players who will represent the Rim Country in the post season.
Payson has a long history of producing top-notch Little League baseball teams for area, district and state tournaments.
Now, the same could possibly be true for fast-pitch softball.