The Longhorn baseball team’s quest to earn a berth in the Division III state tournament received an unexpected but much-needed boost on April 20 with a 15-5 win over the visiting Show Low Cougars.
The win was somewhat unforeseen because earlier this season Show Low run-ruled the Longhorns 15-5 and entered the showdown between the former 3A East rivals sporting a better win-loss record.
In regular season games, which make up the all important power point rankings, coach Dave Nikolaus’ Cougars are 11-3 and Payson is 9-8.
Show Low, however, is ranked 16th just .5 of a power point ahead of 17th ranked Payson.
With just one game remaining in the regular season, April 24 at Camp Verde, the Horns desperately need to wrap up the campaign with a “W” but must then wait out the results of power points to see if the team receives an automatic seed into state.
Because the Horns are ranked reasonably well, 17th among the 54 teams in Division III, the team appears to have a legitimate chance of being one of the 24 schools to reach the state tournament when it begins May 1 at Surprise Stadium.
In whipping Show Low, the Cougars led 2-0 and 3-2 early on before the Horns scored seven runs in the third inning on five consecutive hits and two Show Low errors.
Leading 10-3 in the fourth, the Horns scored two more runs on a hit batter, bases on balls and two wild pitches from the Cougars.
The Horns tacked on five insurance runs in the fourth and fifth innings before the game was called off on the 10-run mercy rule.
Individually, Cale Novack was perfect at the plate going 4-for-4 with two RBIs.
Dylan Richardson was also 4-for-4, scored three runs and started on the hill picking up the pitching win.
Chance Randall put on a power hitting demonstration swatting a home run and a double in four plate appearances. He also had two RBIs.
On April 18 on PHS diamond, the Horns lost an 8-7 heartbreaker to Mingus despite Nick McMullen’s 3-for-4 effort at the plate that included a home run, a double and four RBIs.
In the bottom of the seventh with one out and Mingus leading 8-5, McMullen homered driving home Randall who had singled. That pulled the Horns to within a single run but a strikeout and a ground out squashed Payson’s hope for a game-winning rally.
In the game, the Horns lost the services of infielder-pitcher Miguel Mendoza who suffered a concussion when colliding with a Mingus base runner.
Coach Scott Novack calls the collision simply “horrible.”
Tyus Sarnowski and Will Dougherty shared pitching duties.
On April 17 in Payson, the Horns added much-needed power points to their total with a 20-0 win over Salt River.
Randall proved to be the difference maker in the game with five RBIs and two hits, one of which was a home run.
McMullen belted a home run, a single and drove in two runs.
Gunner Goodman blasted Payson’s third home run of the game.
Following the blowout, coach Novack praised Salt River saying, “They had a tough time — nice kids and good attitudes.”
Oddly enough, the Eagles featured something rarely seen in baseball — a left-handed shortstop.
Mendoza started on the hill for Payson and was credited with the win. Konner Duran relieved for one inning.