Although Santa Cruz defeated Payson 3-2 in the opening round of the 3A state softball tournament, PHS coach Will Dunman is not sure SC was the superior team.
“Sometimes the better team doesn’t win, that’s just the way it goes,” he said. “Some things just didn’t go our way.”
Dunman is calling the game, played May 6 at Rose Mofford Complex in Phoenix, a “heartbreaker” not only because it was so fiercely contested, but also because the loss ended the 2011 season for the Lady Horns.
Payson entered the tournament as an underdog with a No. 12 seed vs. the No. 5 seed SC earned.
Also the Dust Devils owned a win over Payson having taken a six-run decision in the Gracie Haught Classic.
But in the state tournament, the Lady Horns turned in a strong effort taking a 1-0 lead early in the game.
Santa Cruz rebounded to tie the score at 1-1 before Payson scored again to lead 2-1 going into the final two innings.
Dunman remembers the play that spelled the Lady Horns’ demise, “We had two outs against them and they had runners on second and third.
“They hit a fly ball that we dropped allowing the (tying and winning) runs to score.”
For Payson, freshman Devann Runzo tossed one of her finest games of the year, limiting SC to just one hit.
Kaitlyn Wessel had Payson’s best hit — a booming triple. Taylor Petersen had two hits, and Runzo one.
After edging Payson, Santa Cruz lost 3-1 to Safford in the second round of the tournament.
Safford plays No. 1 Winslow on May 13 in the tournament semifinals.
In the other final four brackets, Snowflake takes on Estrella Foothills also on May 13.
The state championship will be played at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 14. All games are at Rose Mofford.
In a somewhat unusual occurrence in prep sports, all the semifinalists entered the tournament clutching top four seeds.
Winslow is top seeded; Estrella is No. 2; Snowflake No. 3; and Safford fourth seeded.
Some see that as an indication the power points system used to seed teams into the state tournament works almost to perfection.