Nick McMullen’s booming 350-foot home run over the left center field fence Wednesday had Longhorn baseball fans and players hootin’ and hollerin’ as if they were clutching winning lottery tickets.
McMullen, a 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound junior first baseman for PHS, punched the two-run round-trip ticket in the bottom of the first inning of the Longhorns’ 6-3 upset of visiting Bradshaw Mountain on March 6.
McMullen’s circuit blast, reminiscent of those Hunter Walden and Bryan Zumbro swatted in the Horns 1999 state championship run, erased the Bears’ early 1-0 lead, setting the stage for Payson’s victory.
First-year head coach Brian Young was among the Payson faithful thrilled with the win over the Division II so called “big school.”
“Tremendous victory, especially because we lost 10-0 at their place last year,” he said. “We had a very strong focus today and played well in a big game.”
With the win, the Horns improved to 5-1, making them a possible contender for both section and division honors.
McMullen, a big-time catalyst of the win, turned in one of the finer performances of his three-year career, finishing 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs and three runs scored. In addition to the home run, McMullen had a double and reached base on an error.
Defensively he also shone, making several standout plays at first.
Tyus Sarnowski, a 6-foot-1-inch, 160-pound junior, was equally as efficient and went 2-for-2 with a double and a home run.
On the hill, right-hander Miguel Mendoza got the starting nod from Young and responded with a yeoman-like performance in which he pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up four hits and three earned runs. Replacement pitcher Dailey Carnes mopped and earned the save.
Mendoza’s effort elicited plenty of praise from Young, “He was a bulldog on the mound. The focus he has and the ability to execute his pitches is awesome to watch.”
Most importantly about Mendoza’s performance is he is rapidly becoming the leader of a pitching staff fueled by young arms.
“We are getting everything we thought we would get from him,” said Young.
The Lady Longhorns softball game vs. Fountain Hills scheduled for March 6 in Payson was cancelled due to illness that sidelined many of the PHS players.
“We just didn’t have enough (players),” said coach Will Dunman.
The baseball team returns to action March 12 against longtime rival Snowflake in Snowflake. Game time is 3:30 p.m.