The Lady Longhorns’ season-long goal of reaching the state tournament has been realized.
The ambition came to fruition April 30 with an East Region tournament third-place finish that catapulted Payson into the 3A tournament as a No. 12 seed.
The Lady Horns open pursuit of the school’s first-ever state crown by playing Friday, May 6 vs. No. 5 seeded Santa Cruz at Rose Mofford Field in Phoenix. Game time is 7 p.m.
Also representing the East in the tournament will be Snowflake, Show Low and Blue Ridge.
In the opening round, Snowflake plays Fountain Hills, Show Low takes on Window Rock and Blue Ridge is paired against Florence.
In the East Region tournament, which opened April 27 with first round games, the Lady Horns advanced with a 12-8 win over Round Valley.
That win propelled the Lady Horns into a second round game on April 29 against regular-season champion Snowflake.
Fueled by two home runs from sophomore Taylor Petersen, the Horns gave the Lobos fits before falling 7-5.
“Defensively we struggled again in the early innings,” said assistant coach Kadi Tenney.
Due to the defensive lapses, the Lobos scored six of their seven runs in the first two innings.
“But we were able to pull it together and shut them down in innings three through seven,” Tenney said.
In addition to Petersen’s powerful hitting, the Horns received bat support from Cami Barnett and Kelsey Waugh.
“Both had a double and Cami had a couple of RBIs,” Tenney said.
The loss sent Payson into an April 30 battle against Alchesay for a tournament third-place finish. The Lady Horns whipped the Falcons to take the tournament bronze medal and earn an automatic berth to state.
At state, the Lady Horns will be facing a Santa Cruz Dust Devils team that finished the regular season at 22-7-1.
The Lady Horns and SC are no strangers to one another having met March 19 in the Gracie Haught Classic tournament in Payson. There, SC escaped with a 7-1 victory.