Just when it looked like the disheartening five-game losing streak might continue unabated, the Longhorn baseball team put an end to the skid with an 8-3 win over the Camp Verde Cowboys.
Playing March 30 on the Payson High School diamond, the Horns took a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning, went up 7-0 in the fifth and led 8-0 in the sixth before the Cowboys rallied for three runs in their final at bat.
While the victory was a huge relief for a team that has been struggling, the offense continues to ping along like a poorly tuned six-cylinder.
“We are still waiting on our offense to click,” said coach Scott Novack. “We had six hits and K’d seven times, but played a very good defensive game and pitched well enough to win.”
Will Dougherty started on the hill and hurled five full shutout innings, giving up four hits, one walk and striking out two.
Tyus Sarnowski relieved and pitched 1-1/3 innings before turning over mop-up duty to Cale Novack who hurled the final 2/3s of the inning without giving up a hit.
During Sarnowski’s stint, he didn’t allow a hit and struck out two, but allowed three runs primarily due to two walks and two hit batsmen.
Defensively, C.J. Nottingham and Cale Novack drew praise for steady play in the outfield and Dailey Carnes turned in a solid effort at third base.
Nick McMullen ignited Payson’s fourth-inning rally with a lead-off single that was followed by a walk to Dylan Richardson.
Although McMullen was later out at third on a fielder’s choice force play, a single by Dougherty, a walk to Gunner Goodman, Miguel Mendoza’s infield hit and a CV throwing error fuelled the rally.
McMullen, arguably Payson’s hottest hitter as of late, paced the offense finishing 2-for-2 at the plate with a walk. Richardson was 1-for-2 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
A day prior to whipping Camp Verde, the Horns’ losing skid reached five games with a 12-6 loss to the Page Sand Devils on PHS diamond.
Payson’s inability to slow down Page’s running game keyed the loss. The Dust Devils were successful on 11 of 12 stolen base attempts as C.J. Ripka was a thorn in the Horns’ side throughout the game, finishing a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts.
On one particular steal, a Page runner broke from first early, then strolled into second standing up without drawing a throw from the Horn pitcher, who appeared distracted.
Coach Novack summed up the frustrating game saying, “One team played fundamental baseball for seven innings and one did not.”
Payson jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first on Chance Randall’s double and singles by Nottingham and McMullen. Richardson contributed a sacrifice fly that scored Randall from third.
On the hill, Gunner Goodman, Mendoza and Konnor Duran shared pitching duties, but didn’t receive much backup help from a leaky defense that committed four errors.
“The pitching line was rough, but there were several plays that should have been made defensively,” coach Novack said.
Offensively, Randall led with two doubles in four plate appearances. McMullen and Nottingham were also 2-for-4 at the plate.
The Horns will try to add a “W” to their win-loss record today, April 3, vs. Mogollon on the PHS diamond and then travel April 5 to April 7 to Estrella Foothills for an invitational tournament.
The last time the Horns were in a tournament, Feb. 22-25 at Fountain Hills, the team won the title, igniting a six-game season-opening winning streak that ended March 7 with a 10-0 loss to Bradshaw Mountain.