Former Payson High School coach and teacher, Mike Loutzenheiser, a member of the Payson High Class of 1987 once said, “a win over Snowflake is the greatest feeling in the world, I don’t care what sport it is — tiddlywinks, pingpong or anything else.”
Loutzenheiser — now a head football coach at Southwestern Randolph High School in North Carolina — obviously harbors an aversion to the Lobos, probably because he attended PHS in an era when the Lobos pretty much had their way with the Longhorns. In fact, Loutzenheiser was a wide receiver and defensive back on the 1986 PHS football team that lost a 7-0 heartbreaker to Snowflake in the state championship game.
Now, however, the age of Lobo dominance has come to a screeching halt and Payson has gained the upper hand over their small-town rivals.
As evidence of the Horns’ rise, sports purists need to look no further than to a baseball game played April 14 in Lobo land where the Horns ran roughshod, 13-6, over Snowflake. The win was posted without coach Jerry Daniels using his star pitcher.
Without Hunter Haynes (5-1, 2.14 ERA, 56 strikeouts) along on the trip, Daniels gave the starting nod to Sean Dougherty who hurled five innings giving up one earned run and six hits.
Keaton Duran relieved and hurled the final two frames allowing two earned runs and three hits.
Dougherty was credited with the victory.
Lobo starter Shawn Walker was saddled with the loss.
Offensively for PHS, Ever Figueroa had a game to write home about finishing 5-for-5 with four RBIs, four runs scored and a double.
Westin Gibson was also a force for the blue and white to reckon with going 4-for-5 with four runs scored, one RBI and a double.
Senior catcher Ridge Halenar punched a three-run round trip ticket and a one-run single, for four RBIs.
Tyler Savage, who is apparently rounding into baseball form after starting for the football and basketball teams, had two hits, one of which was a circuit blast.
The 16 hits chalked up by the team represented a continuation of a weeklong trend in which the Horns are hitting the ball reminiscent of the Murderer’s Row lineup.
“We are really stroking it, there’s not a weak hitter on our roster,” Daniels said. “I was kind of expecting us to hit the ball like this at the beginning of the season but we got off to such a slow start.”
Payson’s bats propelled the Horns to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and increased the cushion to 6-0 in the top of the second.
The Lobos, however, came roaring back with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame.
The Horns tacked on three more runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and two in the seventh to secure the victory.
As good as the offense was, the defense was only adequate, committing three errors.
The win over the Lobos pushes the Horns’ record to 4-1 and keeps the team tied with Blue Ridge, also 4-1, for the region lead.
Overall, the Horns are 16-6 and return to action today, April 17, in Show Low. The game will be a revenge match of sorts since coach David Nikolaus’ Cougars beat the Horns 12-2 on March 17.
Daniels said he would call upon Haynes to pitch.