Stars Get First-Round Area Tourney Bye

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Jake Beeler swings his bat with form and force as he makes direct contact with the ball and sends it whizzing into the infield during a batting practice session for the Little League All Stars.

The Payson 9-10-year-olds Little League All-Star baseball team has drawn a bye for Area 1 first-round play on July 1 in Flagstaff.

Manager Eddie Duran, who coached the Major Division (12-year-olds) A’s during the regular season, is not sure what the bye will mean to his team’s chances of winning area and district championships and earning a ducat to state.

“We’ll have to wait and see. We don’t know right now,” he said.

It could mean that Payson saves at least one of its ace pitchers for later rounds of the tournament.

The All Stars will open the area finals at 4 p.m., Friday, July 2 at Flagstaff Continental against the winner of a first-round game pitting Flagstaff Mt. Elden against Winslow.

If Payson wins the opener, the team would play again at 7 p.m. the following Tuesday, July 6. If Payson loses, it would play again July 4.

A tournament triumph would send Payson into the district finals to be played in Show Low.

After putting the players through several practices since they were selected at the end of the regular season, Duran hints that the key to reaching district, and possibly state, will be pitching.

And one of his best hurlers might be his son, Koy Duran, or Nate McMullen, the son of assistant all-star coach Craig McMullen.

Both Eddie Duran and Craig McMullen are veteran coaches and managers, having led past Payson Little League All-Star teams to area and district championships and to the 16-team state tournament.

As for this team’s chances of advancing, Eddie Duran is putting all his marbles on the mound, mostly because the team might have some deficiencies on “D.”

“We are a little weak defensively,” he said. “I think we will have to have good pitching and score at least 10 runs a game to be competitive.”

Other all-stars include Clayton Randall, Cubby Connelly, Randy Adcock, Keton Turney, Casey Chamberlain, Tyler Heskett and Dylan Schill.

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