Lady Longhorns softball coach Will Dunman’s huge grin and upbeat attitude are there for a reason — his team totally dominated longtime nemesis Snowflake 14-0 in a Division III showdown shortened to five innings on the 10-run mercy rule.
“I can’t remember ever run ruling them,” said Dunman, who remembers those tough past years when the Lobos often had their own way with the Lady Longhorns.
But on March 12 in Snowflake, Payson left little doubt it was the superior team, racking up the impressive win thanks mostly to a no-hit pitching effort from Arianna Paulson.
In the triumph, Paulson picked up where she left off last season when she led the Lady Horns to the state tournament semifinals with a 24-4 record and a miniscule .44 ERA.
In Tuesday’s win over Snowflake, Dunman said, “Ari looked strong, but she might have been a little frustrated because some of her pitches weren’t working.”
Snowflake hitters, however, were obviously totally baffled by Paulson’s pitching as evidenced by their inability to not only get a base hit or simply put the bat on the ball.
Paulson’s dominance on the hill meant the Lady Horns defense did not commit an error, partly because there were so few fielding opportunities.
When there were chances, “We were in position and made every play,” said Dunman.
While the Lady Horns ran away with the “W,” the game was actually scoreless until the third inning when Payson took a 1-0 lead on Kaitlyn Wessel’s hit that drove in Cori Barnett.
In the top of the fourth, Lady Horns went all-gangbusters scoring 11 runs to jump out to a 12-0 cushion.
Paulson’s two-run homer, Sadie Dunman’s RBI double and Payton Petersen’s single fueled the uprising.
Payson eventually scored two insurance runs before the game ended on the 10-run rule.
For the game, Payton Petersen had two singles in three trips to the plate and Megan Wessel, Karessa Armstrong and Paulson were all 2-for-4.
The Lady Horns will not return to action until March 19 in a rematch against Snowflake. Game time is 3 p.m. on PHS diamond.
On March 22 and 23, Payson hosts the 20-team Gracie Haught Classic at Rumsey Park and PHS field.
On opening day of the Classic, Payson plays at:
• 9 a.m. vs. Camp Verde at Kiwanis East at Rumsey Park
• 1:30 p.m. vs. Round Valley at Rumsey 1
• 3 p.m. vs. St. Mary’s at Rumsey 1.
On the second day, Classic Tournament director Charlene Brown will seed the teams into bracket play based on their won-loss records in pool play.