The scrappy Payson Longhorn baseball team battled back from a 4-1 deficit in the top of the third inning to rally for a 7-6 East region win over the visiting Show Low Cougars.
While it’s too early in the season to call the win “crucial,” the victory upped the Horns’ overall record to 4-4 and region credentials to 1-0, a game behind East-leading Blue Ridge (7-1 and 1-0).
In Payson’s victory, the Longhorns rode a solid pitching effort from Dakota Marshall and timely, if not prolific, hitting to the “W.”
Marshall, a long and lanky senior who played a big role in last year’s team run to the state quarterfinals, went the distance on the hill, scattering 10 hits, striking out six, throwing two wild pitches and walking two.
Of the six runs Show Low scored, four were earned.
Marshall was credited with the win, his first of the young season.
While his pitching performance wasn’t overwhelming, it was the yeoman-like effort Payson needed to break into the East winning column.
While Marshall was going about his business on the mound, Longhorn hitters were producing just enough firepower to get the Horns over the green and gold hump.
Much of that offense was provided by Marshall who was his pitching self’s best friend, finishing a perfect 2-for-2 at the plate with two RBIs and a run scored. He also walked once.
Junior shortstop Westin Gibson had one hit — and it was a doozy. The booming triple pushed two crucial runs across the plate.
For the game, Gibson also scored twice and was hit by a pitch.
Jake Sleeper also contributed at the offensive end with two singles in three trips to the plate, an RBI and run scored.
The Horn cause received an additional boost from an RBI single by Chance Randall
Payson also benefited from two stolen bases, one each from Trae Dunman and Sleeper.
Although the Cougars out-hit Payson 10-6, the Horns blasted their base knocks when they were needed most.
Payson took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, only to see the Cougars score a single run in the second and three more in the third to lead 4-1. Payson rallied for three more runs in the bottom of the third to dead knot the game at 4-4.
By posting a single run in the fourth inning and two in the fifth, the Horns roared to a 7-4 lead before Show Low closed the cushion to one with single runs in the sixth and seventh frames.
East action returns today, March 19, on PHS diamond where the Longhorns play host to the Alchesay Falcons. Game time is 3:30 p.m.