Were they track meets or baseball games?
That’s what fans were asking themselves after watching the Longhorn baseball team run over, around and through the Alchesay Falcons in a 21-3 and 15-0 sweep of an East Region doubleheader.
Playing March 18 on PHS diamond, Longhorn hitters and base runners legged carousel-like trips around the base paths despite the efforts of head coach Scott Novack to hold his charges up at third base and not force plays at home.
Because the games were so lopsided, both were called off at the end of five innings on the 10-run mercy rule.
In the opener, which Payson won by a whopping 18 runs, the Horns scored multiple times in each of the first four innings, but the biggest outburst was a nine-run fourth frame.
In the second game shutout, the Horns took a 9-0 lead and wrapped up the win by scoring six in the bottom of the fifth.
Jake Sleeper turned in a monster game in the opener finishing 5-for-5 at the plate with five RBIs and four runs scored.
Senior Westin Gibson, who says he wants to someday play at the next level, also had a game to write home about with three hits in five plate appearances, one of which was a home run. He also scored four runs and had six RBIs.
Wade Hunsaker, a senior who quarterbacked the PHS football team last season, picked up the win going the distance. During his stint, he struck out five, walked two, gave up two hits and allowed two earned runs.
Hunsaker breezed through the first four innings shutting out the Falcons. But in the fifth, his control went awry, prompting Novack to visit the mound and later send a reliever to the bullpen to begin warming up.
Hunsaker, however, recovered from the wild streak, setting the Falcons down on routine infield plays.
Hunsaker is relatively new to the game and also the demands of pitching, but showed enough promise to earn him more mound time as the season continues.
“We’re bringing him along slowly,” said Novack.
In the 15-run win, Edwin Estrada and Dylan Richardson shared mound duties, each striking out five.
Offensively, the Horns pounded out 16 hits, three of which were off the bat of Richardson.
Chance Randall and Zack Blazer both had four RBIs. Blazer’s came on a grand slam home run.
Kyle Randall was 2-for-4 with a double, single and two RBIs.
In a non-region clash played March 16 at Payson, the Horns run-ruled the St. Johns Redskins, 10-0.
Most often St. Johns, a Class 2A school, is a tough opponent, but this time out the Skins were less than stellar.
“Their coach said they are young and we did not see their ace,” said Novack.
In just four innings of play, Horn hitters pounded 10 hits, five of which went for extra bases.
Payson jumped out 3-0 in the first inning on Sleeper’s single, Juan Machado’s hit by a pitch and Gibson’s home run.
Gibson wrapped up the game with two hits and three RBIs. Chance Randall stroked two
doubles and Kyle Randall had a double and an RBI.
Although the game will go down as a “W,” Novack was not pleased with patience and pitch selection shown by the hitters.
“We had 4 Ks in four innings,” said the coach.
Sleeper started on the hill, went the distance and was credited with the win. In five innings, he struck out six and did not issue a base on balls.
Sleeper did, however, get into trouble in the second inning when he gave up singles to the first two hitters he faced.
He responded to the adversity by striking out the third hitter and getting the next to hit into an inning-ending double play begun by Gibson at shortstop.
The Horns return to action March 24 against Chino Valley on PHS diamond. Game time is 3:30 p.m.