Brian Young’s debut as the Payson High School baseball coach turned into a rousing success with the team finishing 3-1 in the Fountain Hills Invitational Tournament.
Played Feb. 20 to 23 at FHHS, the Horns opened with a 12-3 victory over Northwest Christian, then edged Bourgade Catholic, 6-5, and followed it up with a 10-2 win over Winslow.
The trio of wins propelled the Horns into the tournament championship game against a highly regarded Fountain Hills team, ranked No. 2 in Division III.
Although the Horns fell, 7-2 to the homestanding Falcons, Young was pleased with the play of his charges.
“Overall it was a great experience,” he said. “We dealt with a lot of adversity playing at 8 a.m. all three days and dealing with weather we had the last couple of weeks.”
Most impressive, Young continued, is that the team was able to score 30 runs in four games despite inclement weather limiting the amount of batting practice the players had the week prior to the season-opening tournament.
The team opened pursuit of the tourney title by traveling to Fountain Hills on Feb. 19 to avoid the snowstorm that struck the Rim Country the following morning.
“It worked out because we got started on our 8 a.m. game vs. Northwest Christian, but only played into the top of the third (inning) when the heavier rains came.”
Umpires eventually called off the game due to wet grounds, but it resumed and was completed on Friday morning.
In the 9-run win, Tyus Sarnowski started on Wednesday and Taran Sarnowski relieved on Friday giving up just one run and earning a save. Although Dailey Carnes only threw one pitch in relief he was credited with the win.
At the plate, Konner Duran was 3-for-4, Ruben Estrada 2-for-2 and Miguel Mendoza and Carnes both 2-for-4.
In the one run win over Bourgade, Duran started on the hill and threw what Young calls, “Four strong innings.”
Carnes relieved and was credited with the save.
Mendoza was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and Gunner Goodman swatted a double and single in two plate appearances.
Most significant in the win, was the Horns performance on the base paths.
“You could see the hard work we have put into running bases pay off as we stole five bases,” Young said.
Against Winslow, a team PHS had struggled against a week earlier in a scrimmage, Mendoza started on the hill and totally dominated, giving up just one hit and that was on a fly ball the outfielders lost in the sun.
Against the very good Fountain Hills team, Goodman drew the starting pitching nod and hurled four innings giving up three runs while striking out four. “He did everything we wanted on the mound,” Young said.
Estrada led the PHS hit parade with a double and single in two plate appearances. Senior Nick McMullen also swatted a double.
The Horns return to action Feb. 28 at Mogollon. Game time is 2 p.m.