Fans and boosters are praising the 2012 edition of the Lady Longhorn softball team as possibly the finest squad in the 25-year history of the program.
Evidence to support that contention includes a 17-3 record, a second-place finish in the prestigious Buckeye Invitational and a ninth-place power points standing among 52 Division III schools.
Charlene Brown, a longtime local softball aficionado and one of the founders of the fast pitch program, is among those who argue the team is indeed the best ever.
In the Lady Horns’ most recent outings, March 29 vs. Mingus and the following day vs. Camp Verde, PHS tacked on two more wins to its already impressive record, slipping past the Marauders 4-2 and steamrolling 14-0 over the Cowboys.
If the win over visiting Mingus were to be turned into a TV program, it would aptly be called the “Arianna Paulson Show” because she turned in the leading performance, striking out 17 Marauders in seven full innings.
When not setting down opposing hitters, she was pacing the offense with two hits and a team-high three RBIs.
Paulson was equally as good against Camp Verde, picking up the win this time striking out eight, while teaming up with DeVann Runzo for a two-hit shutout.
Paulson also paced the offense with a home run, two doubles and a single in four plate appearances. She also had six RBIs.
Also in the win over the Cowboys, Natalie Black stroked three hits, two of them doubles, and Runzo had two hits and a pair of RBIs. In all, the Lady Horns unleashed a blistering 17-hit attack in a game that was shortened to five innings on the 10-run mercy rule.
Against Mingus, the Marauders jumped on top 1-0 in the top of the third only to see Payson rally in the bottom of the inning to take a 2-1 lead. Mingus scored a single run in the top of the fifth to tie the score.
Payson, however, rallied for two runs in the bottom of the frame to nail down the hard-earned win.
In the Lady Horns’ eight-hit attack, Megan Wessel slapped two base hits and drove in a run.
Payson now begins a three-game spree than includes games today, April 3, vs. visiting Mogollon, tomorrow vs. Bradshaw Mountain at home and the following day at Mogollon.
While all those games are important in the grand scheme of prep softball, the real prize might be an April 9 showdown in Show Low.
That’s because the Lady Cougars have traditionally given Payson fits, especially during the seasons Stan Bingham was at the helm of the program.
This might be the year the Lady Horns enjoy a bit of pay back.