After opening the Gracie Haught Classic softball tournament 4-0, fatigue spelled the demise of the Lady Longhorn softball players as they dropped back-to-back nail-biters to fall out of contention for the invitational crown.
“We were tired — fatigue got the best of us,” said PHS assistant coach Kadie Tenney.
The Classic, which drew 20 teams to Payson, was played March 16 and 17 on five fields at Rumsey Park and on Lady Longhorn diamond.
Probably the most gut-wrenching of the two PHS defeats was a 1-0 loss to eventual tournament champion Estrella Foothills in the Lady Horns’ final game of the Classic.
After the two teams battled tooth and nail to a scoreless deadlock, Estrella scored the winning run in the bottom of the fifth and final inning.
“That was frustrating; we were hoping to finish stronger,” Tenney said.
A game earlier, Payson lost its first game of the fray, 2-1, to Blue Ridge.
During opening day pool play, the Lady Horns got off to a good start with a 13-3 win over Joseph City and continued by whipping Santa Cruz 12-0 and Sunnyslope 8-0.
The team’s 3-0 record in pool play seeded the Lady Horns into a top-10 championship double elimination tournament on Saturday.
In it, Payson tipped off with its second tournament win over Sunnyslope, this time by a 5-3 count.
Riding the quest of a perfect tournament slate, the gutsy Lady Horns couldn’t seal the deal in the two narrow defeats to Estrella and Blue Ridge.
Estrella went on to win the tournament title 9-2 over Benson.
“We were real happy with the effort in the tournament,” said Tenney. “We just didn’t hit the ball in those last two games the way we should have.”
In five of the six tournament games, sophomore fire baller Arianna Paulson started on the hill and was the pitcher of the record.
Paulson’s speedy offerings kept most opponents at bay including Blue Ridge and Estrella.
But in the two defeats, the PHS offense couldn’t generate the hits needed to back up their pitching ace.
In the 10-run win over Joseph City, Devann Runzo started and was credited with the victory.
Against Sunnyslope, school home run record-holder Taylor Petersen and Paulson crushed booming circuit blasts.
While the Lady Horns were disappointed they didn’t win the Classic championship, there was no dissatisfaction three days earlier on PHS diamond where Payson slugged out a 14-2 win over Snowflake.
“That’s not happened in a long time,” said coach Will Dunman.
For years, the Lobos have fielded a state softball powerhouse and more often than not have had their way with the Lady Horns.
But this time out, Payson dominated, with Paulson mowing down frustrated Lobo batsmen and PHS hitters pounding out 10 base knocks including a double and triple off the bat of Megan Wessel. Paulson slugged two doubles and Runzo contributed a pair of singles.
Megan Wessel’s twin sister, Kaitlyn, had a triple.
Taylor Petersen’s reputation as a power hitter earned her three walks from an ever-so-cautious Lobo pitcher. Petersen also had a single.
Defensively, the Lady Horns committed just one error.
During Paulson’s stint on the mound, she allowed two hits, struck out six and walked three.
The Lady Horns won’t have to wait long to get their second crack at Snowflake — the two teams clash again today, March 20, in Lobo land. Game time is 3 p.m.