The agony of defeat, especially to an archrival, is a gut-wrenching experience that leaves prep athletes eager to redeem themselves.
For the Payson baseball team to erase the anguish of a 6-3 loss on April 24 to region-leading Blue Ridge, the squad must right itself with season-ending wins over Alchesay and Snowflake, and then hope for a revenge match against the Yellow Jackets in the upcoming state tournament.
Those opportunities begin today, April 28, in Whiteriver against Alchesay and continue May 1 on PHS diamond vs. the Lobos.
The state tournament kicks off May 8 at the Surprise Baseball Complex.
It’s impossible to tell where BR and Payson could meet in the 16-team showdown, if they do, but the clash could be as early as the quarterfinal round on May. 9.
With 93.556 power points, Payson is a lock for the state tournament but could improve its seeding, which is now ninth, with wins over Alchesay and Snowflake.
If the Horns remain locked in as the state’s ninth seed, the team would play No. 8, possibly Fountain Hills, at 4 p.m. on opening day.
In the region standings, Payson’s loss to the Yellow Jackets dropped the team into a tie for third place with the Lobos. Both teams are 4-4.
Show Low (6-2) is all alone in second place and BR (7-1) sits atop the standings.
In the loss to homestanding BR, Payson’s ace Hunter Haynes gave up six runs, but only one was earned.
In hurling the full six innings, he allowed seven hits, struck out five and walked four.
Although Haynes was effective, he wasn’t the dominating force he was April 7 when PHS out-muscled the Yellow Jackets 5-2.
In the second meeting, Haynes coughed up a home run, a triple and two doubles —– extra base hits he rarely yields.
Payson’s two defensive errors didn’t help the winning cause.
Offensively, Ridge Halenar was 2-for-2 with a run scored and a double.
Payson hitters, which had been on a roll lately, did not have an extra base hit. The Horns could generate only four base hits against the Yellow Jacket mound combo of Dustin Simmons and Nick Johnson.
Simmons allowed one hit in four innings.
Payson batters struck out seven times, but did draw seven walks.