Little League softball regular season play has wrapped up, the annual all-star selection process is beginning and officials are readying themselves to host the 9- to 10-year-old (Minor division) area all-star tournament July 5 to July 9 at Rumsey Park.
The 11- and 12-year-olds, or Major division players, will travel those same dates to Taylor for the area tournament. Winners there will advance to district tournaments at a yet to be determined site.
If a Payson team can win district honors, it would advance, for the first time in the history of the program, to a state tournament.
In Major division regular season action, the Aztecs finished first, the Fighting Irish were second and the Wildcats third. The Yankees took the Minor league title outdueling the second place Sun Devils and bronze medalist Reds.
The coach-pitch league has also wrapped up play, but there is no all-star tournament for the age group.
Little League official Felicia Moore is calling the past campaign “a good year for all.”
She also cites softball vice president and coach Curtis Johnson, a former Lady Longhorn coach for doing “a great job of watching and seeing what needs to change for next year to continue growing and making the program better.”
Little League softball in Payson is relatively new, having been in existence only three years.
“We are learning how to improve the girls’ skills and the league,” Moore said. “I know when our coach-pitch (players) get to the minors and majors we will see a huge difference.”
Prior to Little League’s inception, Payson’s young athletes participated mostly in slow-pitch, which prompted many coaches and parents to worry the fledglings were not prepared for fast-pitch play once they reached high school or joined Valley area club teams.
With Little League now a fixture, Moore promises, “(The players) will never see slow-pitch.”
She also cites Johnson for improving the pitching of several of the hurlers including 11-year-old Karlie Smith of the Aztecs.
“Curtis has worked with Karlie for three years and it shows from the mound,” Moore said. “She is one of the best in the majors.”
During the season, Johnson works with aspiring pitchers every Monday and Thursday.
“My hope is these girls keep working in the off season so our pitching will improve,” Moore concluded.