The Payson Little League Junior All-Stars’ miracle ride through the post season ended Sunday in Prescott with a 16-4 loss to Paradise Valley.
The defeat was Payson’s second in the Arizona state tournament, thus eliminating the team from further contention.
On July 19, the stars lost 10-7 to Goodyear, but on July 17 shocked the Little League world by upsetting traditionally powerful Chandler National 12-0.
While the team did not win the state title the players had their sights set on, the group was one of only four Payson teams to ever win both area and district titles and earn a ducat to state, the granddaddy of Arizona Little League play.
Payson’s celestial crew earned the right to advance to the Prescott showdown with a 16-1 win over Silver Creek in the District I championship game played July 11 in Lakeside.
The win over SC was Payson’s second in the district tournament.
Throughout both the area and district tournaments, Payson dominated, run-ruling every opponent they faced.
Although the team was recognized as both talented and focused, few gave the all stars a chance to beat Chandler National in the second round of state.
The Payson stars received a first-round bye and Chandler advanced to the second round with a 13-5 win over Gilbert.
Chandler was a huge favorite to ambush the ambitious Payson nine, mostly because the historically rich program represents a huge swath of the Valley Little League landscape that is overloaded with talented athletes who play the sport year-round.
Years ago, a Chandler team qualified for the Little League national championship played in Williamsport, Pa. But defying all odds, the Payson stars run-ruled Chandler behind the standout pitching of Taran Sarnowski and solid hitting and defense by the entire team.
The magic the team showed against Chandler, however, could never again be mustered in the losses to Paradise Valley and Goodyear.
In the final inning of the loss to Goodyear, the Payson stars had the tying run on at first and the winning run at the plate.
But with two outs, the Payson hitter struck out to end any hopes the team had of a comeback.
Most impressive about the group, is that it consisted of the minimum nine players, meaning all-star manager Tony McNeeley had no substitute options.
Throughout the post season, McNeeley and others praised the young players for their dedication and commitment to the game.
The manager is also predicting that the group will enjoy many successes as they continue their athletic careers at Payson High School and beyond.