Lady Horns On A Roll...

PHS girls overwhelm Miami and Fountain Hills in storybook season that stokes hopes for state championship

Kaitlyn Wessel, star first baseman for the Lady Longhorns, gets another out.

Kaitlyn Wessel, star first baseman for the Lady Longhorns, gets another out. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Last Thursday and Friday, the Payson High School girls softball team trounced both Miami and Fountain Hills, the latest in a string of wins that has already earned perhaps the best softball team in Rim Country history a berth in the state playoffs.

Umpires ended both games early, invoking the “mercy rule” when the score grew too lopsided.

“We call these ‘Ugly Wins’,” said Assistant Coach Kadi Tenney.

She went on to explain that against Miami, the girls scored 11 runs compared to Miami’s one. The referee invoked the mercy rule after the fifth inning.

On Friday, the Lady Longhorns played a doubleheader against Fountain Hills.

Juliedon Petersen, mother of Taylor and Payton watched the game. “Taylor did great,” she said, “she hit two home runs and Arissa (Paulson) did awesome at pitching.”

Tenney said that Taylor’s home runs both went over the fence.

In the first Fountain Hills game, the Horns’ star freshman pitcher Arissa threw a no-hitter, again triggering the mercy rule.

“The only time they really hit the ball was a bunt at the beginning of the game,” said Tenney, “from then on they only really hit fouls.”

That game ended in the fifth inning, said the assistant coach.

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Lady Horn softball sluggers will face a busy week with two games against Salt River and two games against archrival Show Low, including Tuesday and Wednesday home clashes.

In the second game, Tenney said the Fountain Hills coach put his best pitcher in, while Payson switched to sophomore Sadie Dunman.

With the pitcher switch, Fountain Hills kept Payson to only five runs, while scoring two runs of their own.

“We had trouble because their first pitcher threw slow balls and we had to adjust to the faster pitches,” said Tenney.

The Payson team has already cinched a playoff spot. Some observers think Payson has a chance to win a state championship.

It’s a young team, said Tenney. She and longtime coaching partner Will Dunman look forward to strong teams for a while.

Tenney credits the strength of the team to the girls starting early in softball.

“Arissa started pitching when she was 9,” said Tenney. “She has six pitches that have variety and speed. Her pitches are hard to hit.”

The coaching team of Dunman and Tenney has a long history as well — 13 years to be exact.

The two met, along with their spouses, when they all attended Northern Arizona University.

“We met when we lived in married housing,” said Tenney.

She grew up in Payson and suggested the Dunmans give the town a try. The Dunmans graduated a year before the Tenneys and got jobs in the school district. Tenney and her husband came a year later, also finding a livelihood in Payson.

Now the pair coaches the high school varsity softball team.

Last week the team had three games. This upcoming week the team has another four games.

“It’s been a tough year with games getting canceled due to weather and injury,” said Tenney.

Tuesday, April 16 the team has a doubleheader against Salt River starting at 4 p.m. Then on Wednesday and Friday the team plays their archrival Show Low on Wednesday and Friday.

Wednesday will be at home; Friday will be away in Show Low.

To make matters more challenging, coach Dunman has Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) testing.

He found a minute to copy the score sheets for this article, but spent most of the day offering support to his teachers in preparation for a test that will determine state funding for his school.

No pressure ... but maybe that’s how the team performs at its best.

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