Insiders are predicting that Payson’s 13-14-year-old Little League softball all-stars could have the talent to upset perennially tough Snowflake in the upcoming area-district post-season tournament.
“That’s the team we must get past, and last year they were one game away from winning state,” said Payson all-star manager Chris Perkes.
The tournament kicks off at 4 p.m., Monday, July 5 in Winslow against Holbrook. Times and dates of the following games in the double elimination tournament will depend on the results of the opener.
The optimism in the Payson softball camp is because the stars’ foundation includes several players who were standouts last season on the Lady Longhorn junior varsity and varsity teams.
“All the players, except for three, played high school ball,” said Perkes.
A pair of those athletes — twin sisters Megan and Kaitlyn Wessel — saw extensive duty on varsity, despite being untested freshmen.
At the conclusion of the year, opposing coaches thought enough of Kaitlin to name her to the 3A All-East second team.
All season long, she proved to be an offensive threat, posting a team-high .631 on-base percentage and a .335 batting average.
Megan was the team’s second line pitcher behind senior Mary Hagen and filled in admirably at first base when her sister spent time on the injured list.
In addition to having Megan as a pitching option, Perkes can call upon Devann Runzo for hurling duties.
The duo give the Payson stars a solid one-two pitching combination to throw at Snowflake or any of the other 10 teams in the tournament.
“Our pitching is strong,” said Perkes.
The manager is also cautiously optimistic the players will be able to generate enough offense to propel the team to area-district titles and into the state tournament.
“We have so much power,” he said. “Every girl can hit the ball hard.”
The manager is especially high on Payton Petersen, who he’s predicting can be as successful as her older sister, Taylor, a slugger who last season set a Payson High School home run record (12) as a freshman.
Other all-stars named to the team in a voting of coaches include Karessa Armstrong, Emmee Ashby, Kelsey Bossert, Macy Dailey, Sadie Dunman, Jade Holland, Rylie Perkes and Emma Randall.
Will Dunman and Curtis Johnson are all-star assistant coaches.
Johnson was a previous head coach of the Lady Longhorns, and Dunman is the current head coach.