Payson High’s chances of earning a berth in the season-ending Division III state tournament took a big-time hit with a 10-0 loss to the Show Low Cougars.
“We’ll have to be very lucky now to make the state playoffs,” coach Scott Novack said after the April 11 loss to the homestanding Cougars.
Although the defeat was disheartening, the team rebounded the following day to soundly thump Miami 18-3 in just three innings.
“They are very young,” said Novack. “In the first inning we had seven runs on six hits.”
Because baseball is a very cerebral game, the coach was elated to see his hitters playing fundamentally sound by taking what was offered them by Vandal hurlers.
“Of our 17 batted balls, 12 were the other way (opposite field) against a pitcher that was very similar to what we faced all year and had trouble with,” he said.
The key to the hitting discipline, the coach added, was “the boys showed up ready to listen” after coaches had earlier put them through their paces on taking the proper approach to hitting.
“They did a great job,” Novack said. “Too bad they had to learn after an important game like Show Low.”
Against Show Low, Cougar pitching ace Zach Winn shut out the Longhorns over six innings, propelling SL to the runaway victory.
“It was the Zach Winn Show,” said Novack. “Our guys would not listen and take the approach that we teach and worked on all week.”
Winn, taking advantage of Payson’s hitting miscues, struck out nine, walked two and gave up just four hits.
At the plate, the Cougar star blasted two home runs — one to centerfield and one to right.
He also finished with four RBIs.
Defensively, the Horns were their own worst enemies, committing five errors that all ultimately contributed to Cougar runs.
With the season winding down, the Horns are now ranked 21st among the 55 Division III teams.
In D-III, Section III, in which there are 17 teams, Payson is ranked eighth with a 7-7 regular season record.
A field of the top teams will receive ducats into the D-III state tournament that begins May 1 at Surprise Stadium.
The Horns could stamp a ticket to state if they can win their five remaining games, which include an April 20 rematch against the Show Low Cougars on PHS field.
Payson kicks off the season-ending five-game stretch today, April 17, on PHS diamond vs. Salt River. Game time is 3:45 p.m.