It now appears the best chance Payson High School baseball and softball teams have of earning a coveted berth into the 3A Arizona State Tournament is by finishing first, second or third in the East region tournament set for April 27, 29 and May 1 at the site of the highest seed.
“That’s the way it is right now,” Lady Longhorn coach Will Dunman said.
The other method to reach state is by power points, but that doesn’t appear a good route because neither team is sitting high in the standings.
AIA power points rankings show the baseball team is currently 21st among the 28 3A conference schools, and the softball team is tied for 17th. Neither mark is good enough to propel the Longhorns into the 16-team state tournament.
However, rankings will change as some teams have final regular games scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, and some results have not yet been reported to the AIA.
For the East region tournament’s first round, the top two regular season finishing teams will receive byes and the third-place school will take on No. 6. Also on opening day, No. 4 plays No. 5.
The winners advance to the second round.
The Lady Horns have wrapped up East play with a 5-5 record, which Dunman anticipates will earn his team a tie for third place with Round Valley in the final standings.
He expects Payson to receive the tournament’s third seed and RV to fall to fourth on a tiebreaker in which the Lady Horns beat the Elks twice during the regular season.
If Payson does receive the third seed as anticipated, the team would probably open the East tournament against cellar-dwelling Alchesay.
The baseball team is also 5-5 in region play, but will probably finish fourth in the final regular-season standings.
If that scenario unfolds, the Horns would play No. 5 Round Valley in the first round of the East tournament.
In such a playoff game, Payson would be an odds-on favorite, having whipped RV twice this season by scores of 4-1 and 12-2.
Both the baseball and softball teams wrapped up East play April 20 on PHS fields with wins over Round Valley.
The Lady Horns won 15-9 behind solid pitching by Mary Hagen and Kyl Sanders’ booming home run that hit the outfield scoreboard.
Dunman also attributed the win to “our short game where we were able to bunt, slap hit, get runners on (base) and move them around.”
Although Hagen gave up two home runs, she was for the most part efficient and in control.
The baseball team overwhelmed the Elks, 12-2, thanks to six innings of four-hit pitching from Sean Dougherty.
Although the two runs the Elks scored were earned, one via a home run, Dougherty was in complete command, striking out eight and walking only one.
Dakota Marshall was 2-for-4 at the plate, with four RBIs and a run scored.
Edwin Estrada ripped a home run, and Chance Randall and Jake Sleeper had triples.
In all, the Horns stroked 13 base hits, one of their highest totals of the season.
If the two PHS teams attain their goal of reaching state, play would begin May 7 in the Valley.