Natalie Black collides with the St. Johns’ shortstop as she slides safely into second base during the third inning at the Payson softball field. The Lady Longhorns won 9-4.
Photo by Andy Towle.
The Payson High School baseball and softball teams are facing similar playoff fates.
The best chance for both to reach the state promised land, when it begins May 7 in the Valley, is to earn a berth in the first-ever East regional tournament. The inaugural fray begins April 27 at the home site of the highest seed. For it, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the regular season standings will receive byes. Then, No. 3 will play No. 6 and No. 4 takes on No. 5. The winners advance to games on April 29, with the championship played May 1.
The other method teams can earn state playoff berths is by finishing among the top 16 in power points.
That, however, might not be a likely avenue for the Lady Horns and one they don’t want to take, considering what occurred last year.
Only a day prior to the end of the season, the Lady Horns were ranked 16th in power points and appeared bound for the playoffs.
A day later, however, Payson fell out of the top 16 and the Lady Horns found themselves without a ducat to the big show.
The team, with its 8-5 regular season ranking, is currently sitting 16th in points, just two tallies ahead of No. 17 Holbrook and three in front of No. 18 Chino Valley.
With the race that closely contested, the Lady Longhorns might want to ensure themselves of reaching the postseason by finishing among the top three in the regional tournament.
The Lady Longhorns took a giant stride toward the postseason with three consecutive wins — whipping Fountain Hills 30-14, Blue Ridge 5-3 and on April 13, besting visiting St. Johns 9-4.
In beating St. Johns, Payson’s ace hurler Mary Hagen got the starting call and went the distance on the hill.
After being touched for runs in the early going, she settled down to keep the Redskins in check the latter part of the game.
Freshman Megan Wessel started at shortstop, for the second consecutive game, in place of Rylee Halenar who is nursing a sore ankle.
“We wanted to rest Rylee for another game,” said assistant coach Kadi Tenney.
Offensively, Wessel contributed a booming double into the left center field gap.
The team’s quest for the playoff continues today, April 16, on PHS diamond where the Lady Horns take on the Snowflake Lobos at 6:30 p.m. The game will be preceded at 3:30 p.m. by a junior varsity game.
Also, the team and Friends And Neighbors (FAN) Club will host the annual benefit barbecue dinner from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today near the softball concession stand. Tickets are $5 per plate for a deep-pit barbecued beef and beans cowboy dinner.