When Payson Little League’s 12-year-old stars square off against Flagstaff Continental at noon on July 1 in the opening round of the Area 1 tournament, the two teams will be no strangers to one another.
“This is the third year in a row that we have played them in the first round,” said all-star manager Ty Goodman.
Rendering tournament matters even more challenging, Goodman is predicting the two teams will be the favorites to win both the area and district championships and advance to state.
Both of the area and district shootouts will be held in Payson and played on the Rumsey III ballfield.
The area tournament begins July 1 and 2 and continues July 3 and 6. The district tournament, which pits Area 1 and 2’s top two teams against one another, will be played July 7 and 8, also at Rumsey III.
The state tournament tips off July 20.
Area 2 includes teams from communities throughout the White Mountains.
Goodman has coached and managed the local 12-year-old stars since they were members of Payson’s 9-10-year old celestial squad.
Last year, the team won both the area and district titles to advance to state, where Payson struggled in the 16-team field.
“This is a pretty solid group of kids,” said Goodman. “We have very good hitting and four aces (pitchers).”
The best of the hurlers might be Taren Sarnowski, who Goodman will start on the hill Thursday against Continental.
The manager is hoping that Sarnowski and his teammates will have the home field advantage.
“We want everyone to turn out and support the team,” he said.
“The kids will appreciate that.”
Other programs that will be represented in the area tournament include Flagstaff, Winslow, Page, Tuba City, Flagstaff Mt. Elden and Flagstaff Coconino.
Heath Wacker is serving as the local tournament director.
Payson’s all stars, who were selected at the end of the regular season in a voting of coaches, include Chris Wacker, Grayson Barr, Austin Gibson, Josh Shaw, Jagger Schill, Ruben Estrada, Bryce Goodman, Daniel Woolwine, David Evans and Sarnowski.