The Payson High School baseball team now knows well the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
They learned the lesson on March 14 on PHS field with a 9-5 win over Blue Ridge and one day later in Fountain Hills where Falcon pitcher Nick Wojtkyslak threw a one-hitter in FHHS’s 5-0 victory.
With the split, the Longhorns stand 8-2 on the season — a mark that is among the top five records in Division III.
Thatcher, with its 9-0 record is thus far the class D-III leader, but Fountain Hills at 13-1 is also among Arizona’s finest.
In the shutout loss to the Falcons, sophomore Logan Morris was the only PHS player to get a base hit.
On Wojtkyslak’s way to the one-hitter, he fanned 16 Horn batters — one Longhorn three times and six other players in two at-bats.
“We ran into a total buzz saw,” said PHS coach Brian Young. “He was probably better than advertised.
Although Wojtkyslak has a 1.62 ERA he might not be the best pitcher on the Fountain Hills staff.
That honor might go to Andrew Bryniarski who sports a miniscule .98 ERA and a 3-0 record.
For Payson, Tyus Sarnowski drew the starting pitching nod from Young and hurled five full innings absorbing the loss after giving up four earned runs on four hits. He also fanned eight and walked one.
“Tyus really did a solid job,” Young said. “It’s too bad Tyus’ effort was overshadowed by how well Wojtkyslak pitched and how poor our defense was at times.
Against Sarnowski, Fountain Hills was 4-for-25 at the plate hitting just .160.
However, FHHS stats show the Falcons had six hits, but the Payson statistician called two of those Longhorn errors.
While the loss to the Falcons was tough for Young and his charges to absorb, the win over Blue Ridge was cause for great elation mostly because the Yellow Jackets had won seven consecutive games over PHS.
“The guys were really ready to put that streak to bed,” said Young. “They came out and played really hard and had to battle the whole way to get the win.”
In the triumph, junior first baseman/pitcher Nick McMullen turned in what Young is calling “another monster game.”
Among his two base hits was a two-run homer in the third inning that soared over the batter’s eye in centerfield.
Roundup photographer Andy Towle called the circuit blast the longest he’s ever seen on PHS diamond.
In the bottom of the sixth, McMullen punched another round-trip ticket that padded the Horns lead going into the crucial seventh and final inning.
In addition to uncorking two home runs, McMullen was intentionally walked twice.
In hindsight, the BRHS coach is probably wishing his strategy had been to walk McMullen all four times he was at bat.
Also offensively for Payson, Gunner Goodman was 3-for-4 at the plate with three runs and a double.
Dailey Carnes, batting in the lead off slot, hit a double in three at-bats and had a run batted in.
On the mound, Miguel Mendoza — who has been a hurling star since his Little League days in Payson — picked up the win scattering five hits and striking out five.
“I wouldn’t say he had his best control (four walks), but he battled through it and did just enough to keep us right where we needed to be in the whole game,” Young said.
With one out in the seventh, Carnes relieved Mendoza and set down the side.
“He was dominating again, getting the job done,” said Young.
On the day Payson was losing to Fountain Hills, March 15, the Arizona Interscholastic Association issued its first power points rankings for the 2013 season showing the Longhorns were sitting in first place.
The loss to the Falcons will probably drop PHS out of first when the next rankings are issued, but being top ranked, “Was a nice honor,” Young said.
The Longhorns return to play today, March 19 against the Snowflake Lobos. Game time is 5:30 p.m. on PHS diamond.