Exactly what the Lady Longhorns softball team’s 5-3 win over Blue Ridge will mean later this season has yet to be determined — but it most certainly was a morale booster.
“It was really good for our confidence, a game we needed to win,” PHS assistant coach Kadi Tenney said. “We came together, it was a team effort.”
The April 9 victory in Lakeside also took a bit of the sting out of an earlier season 11-5 loss to Blue Ridge in front of Payson’s home fans.
The key to the victory over the Yellow Jackets, Tenney said, “was outstanding pitching by Mary Hagen and solid defense most of the game.”
The Lady Horns did commit three errors, but they were all in the bottom of the seventh inning after Payson built a 5-1 cushion. The miscues allowed BR to score two runs, but Hagen eventually slammed the door on the late rally.
Offensively, Megan Wessel — a freshman who began the season on the jayvee roster — led the hit parade with three singles in four plate appearances.
The frosh was inserted late into the lineup because starting shortstop Rylee Halenar was nursing a sore ankle.
Tenney expects Halenar to recover and be back in the lineup today, April 13, vs. St. Johns on Lady Horn diamond.
“Keeping her out (vs. BR) was just a precaution,” Tenney said.
The triumph in Lakeside improved the Lady Horns’ East record to 3-4 and keeps the team in the race for a state tournament berth behind Round Valley (4-1) and Snowflake (5-2). Show Low and Blue Ridge are also in the running, meaning winless Alchesay is the only East team without any playoff hopes.
In power points, the Lady Horns are ranked 18th among the 28 3A teams that play softball.
Power points are used to seed teams into the state tournament, and the top 16 teams earn berths. For the Lady Horns to reach the post-season promised land, they will need to finish among the top three in the East standings or improve two notches in power points.
Payson has earned 47.1429 power points to trail Chino Valley and Window Rock. Both have 47.5 points and are tied for the 16th and final playoff slot.
The Lady Horns’ current PP standings are somewhat similar to last season when Payson seemed to have either a 15th or 16th playoff seed sewed up, only to fall out of the top 16 on the final day of the regular season.
The heartbreak that caused is best forgotten.
Football or softball?
Payson’s power points cause received a bit of a boost April 6 in a crazy and hairy 30-14 win over visiting Fountain Hills.
“The score is more like a football game,” deadpanned Tenney. “It was the wildest game.”
She attributes the high score to Fountain Hills’ weak pitching and winning pitcher Mary Hagen’s off day.
“She gave away more walks than she usually does,” Tenney said.
In the lopsided win, freshman Taylor Petersen continued her assault on the record books, slugging her ninth home run, which tied the school record set in 2006 by Hannah Armenta, then a sophomore.
On the day, Petersen finished 4-for-6, with two doubles and a single to go along with the round-trip ticket.
If Payson does not make the playoffs, the hard-hitting freshman has just five games to break the school record.
Although an April 16 game against Snowflake on Lady Longhorn field is marked as a festive occasion because it is the annual deep pit barbecue benefit dinner, the outcome of the game could determine Payson’s post-season fate.
So while PHS fans will be digging into the delicious beef and beans cooked cowboy-style by Albert Hunt, players will be all business.
The meal is $5 a plate and all proceeds benefit the softball team. The Friends And Neighbors (FAN) club is co-sponsoring the event.
Game times are 4:30 p.m. (jayvee) and 6:30 p.m. (varsity).