A Longhorn baseball team that is playing with the mettle and hustle it takes to reach the post season split a two game home stand last week whipping Snowflake, 5-2, on March 19, but falling three days later, 14-1, to a very talented Fountain Hills squad.
With the split, Payson is 9-3 on the season and will return to action on Friday, March 29 in Camp Verde.
The loss to Fountain Hills was the Horns second in one week. On March 15 in Fountain Hills, PHS fell 6-0 to the Falcons who currently are at the top of the class of Division III with a sterling 16-1 record.
In the second loss to FH, Miguel Mendoza scored Payson’s lone run in the bottom of the fifth after singling earlier. In the sixth with PHS trailing by 13 runs, the game was called off on the 10-run rule.
While the Horns were outhit only 11-5 by the Falcons, Payson was its own worst enemy committing a whopping seven errors, three by a freshman starter.
Mendoza, normally one of the Longhorn’s most reliable pitchers, received the starting pitching nod from coach Brian Young and hurled four full innings giving up six hits, while walking five and striking out three.
Of the nine runs scored while Mendoza was on the hill, seven were earned.
Gunner Goodman relieved Mendoza in the fifth and gave up three earned runs. Dailey Carnes, Payson’s ace reliever, came on to pitch the final inning and was touched for two runs, one of which was earned.
Offensively, no PHS player had more than one hit as batters struggled for the second time this season against the Falcon’s standout pitching staff.
While the loss to FH was obviously disappointing, the win over Snowflake was a thrill mostly because the Lobos have been a huge PHS rival since the two schools were members of the now defunct 3A East Region in the early 1980s.
As fierce as the rivalry can be, Young harbors a respect for the current Lobos team.
“Snowflake doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” he said. “I think they are going to go on and win a lot of games especially if their ace Braccin Tanner continues to throw to the level he did (against PHS).”
As for the Horns, Young believes there is plenty of room for improvement both offensively and defensively, “We have work to do at the plate and I will push the guys to continue to work hard in the field.”
The coach, however qualifies the quest for improvement with words of encouragement, “I like where we are right now.”
Young also contends this is great for the future because the team has not yet peaked and the players are just now is finding out how good they can be with total commitment to the program.
Since defense has been a priority for Young since he took over the coaching reins at the start of the 2013, the subpar effort in the loss to Fountain Hills has to be a disappointment
In the win over Snowflake, the “D” committed two first inning errors that led to a Lobo run, but settled down to have just one miscue, catcher’s interference, the remainder of the game.
While Payson’s 9-3 start is one of the better in recent seasons, it comes with a price mostly because opponents are throwing their ace hurlers against the Horns.
“Our players have to understand that if we have success, we will continue to see the opponent’s top pitcher every time we are on the field,” said Young.