Former Lady Longhorn softball coach Curtis Johnson, now the coach of the Payson Little League 13-14-year-old All-Stars, is touting the recently completed Area tournament as a solid learning experience for his squad.
“The girls played better each game of the tournament,” he said. “Our girls did a great job competing.”
In the postseason tournament, which was played in Pinetop-Lakeside, Payson finished third overall, losing 10-4 to Winslow in a semifinal game.
“Winslow had some every good pitching and experienced players,” Johnson said.
Earlier in the District fray, Payson took a forfeit win from Show Low and then defeated Blue Ridge 17-12. That win was recorded despite the team not having ace pitcher Devann Runzo, who was ill.
Even without her in the lineup, Johnson had plenty of hurlers at his disposal including Summer Kelley, Megan Wessel, Kaitlytn Wessel and Emma Randall.
“All did a great job and gave outstanding efforts when called upon,” Johnson said.
Defensively, the coach cited outfielder Macey Dailey and infielder Kaitlyn Wessel for their contributions.
“(Macey’s) highlight was a line drive hit deep to left field where she made the catch and was able to throw out the runner on third base who did not tag up prior to her catch,” Johnson said.
He cited Kaitlyn Wessel for her strong play at the hot corner where she expertly fielded screaming grounders and well laid bunts.
Catcher Karessa Armstrong also drew praise for her solid pitch blocking and a rifle-armed throw in the loss to Winslow.
“She had an awesome pick off at third base,” Johnson said.
At the plate, Kaitlyn Wessel, Megan Wessel, Ryley Perkes, Kelsey Bossert and Katie Jones buoyed the Rim fast pitch all-stars.
The all-star team was comprised of outstanding players off the teams that played in the Little League regular season.
The past campaign was only the second year Payson has fielded Little League fast pitch softball play.
Lady Longhorn coach Will Dunman, who is also in the league, is predicting fast pitch play among the younger players will lay a solid foundation for the high school program.