Senior pitcher Hunter Haynes baffled, bewildered and mystified Round Valley hitters on his way to setting a school record 14 strikeouts in only five innings.
The Ks, coupled with a nine-hit attack, paced the Longhorns (11-4 overall, 1-1 in the East) to a convincing 10-0 win over the Elks.
The victory was chalked up March 31 on PHS diamond and set the stage for a non-region showdown today, April 3, in Winslow.
Haynes’ performance against Round Valley might have surpassed some former Longhorns’ finest single-game efforts, including those turned in by storied hurlers Tom Canale and Bryan Zumbro, both whom went on to star in the D-1 college ranks.
Relying on a fastball, change-up and three different curve balls, Haynes was simply masterful on the mound improving his record to 4-1 and his ERA to 2.25.
Of course, a bit of the credit for Haynes’ masterful performance has to go to senior catcher Ridge Halenar who expertly handled the PHS hurler, as he does other pitchers.
With the Payson ace mowing down Elk hitters, a trio of Payson hitters, Ever Figueroa Devin England and Halenar, turned in multi-hit performances.
England’s hitting performance, which included a double, single and two RBIs in two plate appearances, drew praise from former Longhorn head coach Bruce Haught, now a volunteer assistant.
“I don’t know what you are doing, but you are seeing the ball well, keep it up,” he told England as the young player returned to the dugout.
Halenar was 2-for-3 at the plate with a double, two runs scored and an RBI.
Figueroa finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
For the season, Halenar is now hitting .605, a top-five mark in the East Region. England is hitting .440 and Figueroa .278, but rapidly improving.
The Horn attack against RV also featured some nifty base running from Ryan Williams, Edwin Estrada and Figueroa. All were successful on their steal attempts making the Longhorns 3-for-3 on the day.
Defensively, the Horns committed two errors.
With Haynes throwing heat, PHS batters pounding out base hits and the Horns running freely on the base paths, the team dugout turned into a celebration that might have rivaled the Boston Red Sox’s 2004 fete when the team ended its 86-year championship drought.
Head coach Jerry Daniels lauded the team’s performance saying it was those types of efforts the Horns will need to make a run at the East Region title.