The Payson Longhorn baseball team travels today to Show Low for a an East region opener armed with an unblemished record (2-0) in Scott Novack’s first season as a head coach.
The Horns, however, came ever so close to dropping their most recent outing, a March 10 clash vs. Winslow on PHS diamond.
In the bottom of the fifth, Payson was clinging to a precarious 2-1 lead, but managed to tack on three more runs to assume a 5-1 cushion.
The Bulldogs, however, came roaring back in the top of the sixth to score 10 runs and assume a seeming 11-5 lead.
Just when it seemed like the Dogs would return to the northland with a “W” the Horns rallied in the bottom of the inning for eight runs to take a 13-11 victory.
“We are short on pitching,” lamented Winslow coach Art Griffith. “It was a crazy game.”
Senior right hander Jake Sleeper started on the mound and was hit hard early, but some of those well hit balls came up just short of traveling over the outfield fence.
Among the outstanding defensive plays in the game was a catch turned in by Juan Machado, a 5-foot, 9-inch 150-pound senior.
Early in the game, he robbed a Dog batsman of an extra base hit flagging down a hard hit ball in right center field.
The grasp, which Machado made look almost effortless while running to his left and making an underhand catch, drew applause from the crowd, coaches and teammates.
Early in the game, the Horns had an opportunity to enjoy the proverbial big inning, but hopes were dashed when Westin Gibson was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on an infield hit.
In Show Low, the Horns will take on a David Nikolaus-coached Cougar team that has for the past few years been involved in some epic struggles with Payson teams formerly under the tutelage of Jerry Daniels.
The talk in the White Mountains is the Show Low football team’s record-setting quarterback Rathen Ricedorf has turned out for the team, leaving fans to wonder if he will have the impact in baseball as he did in football.
Last fall, the strong-armed signal caller led the Cougars to the 3A state title.
If he performs as a pitcher as he did when throwing tight spirals to Cougar receivers, he could be a force in baseball.
When the Horns and Cougars take to the field today, Novack is expecting an exciting matchup.
“Our pitching is fairly young, but competitive, so with a good hitting Payson team we will see where our pitching really stands at this point in the season,” he said. “It should be a great baseball game knowing that Payson has come away with some respectable wins recently.”
The Horns won’t get much rest as the team hosts St. Johns tomorrow, March 16, and plays a double header March 18 in Payson vs. Alchesay.