The Longhorns are back.
Well, back together.
After struggling to a 2-5 record in their own Gracie Haught Classic with four starters out of the lineup, Payson’s softball team looked more like the Division 3 powerhouse of preseason expectations — winning three consecutive games in a five-day stretch.
After beating Snowflake 8-4 on the road on March 25 and Lakeside Blue Ridge 16-2 at home on March 27, PHS (15-8 overall, 6-0 power points games) won 7-0 at Morenci behind Arianna Paulson’s dominant pitching. The senior, who along with sister Arissa, and Cori Barnett missed the tournament while on a class trip to Greece, came within one strike of a rare perfect game. She wound up firing a no-hitter with one walk and 13 strikeouts.
The only blemish on her day came when the umpire ruled a close pitch on a full count with one out in the bottom of the seventh a ball.
“What we thought was strike three came across the plate and he called it ball four,” said Payson coach Kadi Tenney. Their coach said ‘she made us look foolish.’ She pitched very well.”
Second baseman Katie Dunman made a leaping snag of a line drive for the first out of the sixth inning to save the no-hitter. “That was an outstanding play by Katie Dunman,” Tenney said. “We thought it was going to be a base hit and she came out of nowhere and pulled that out of the sky. She’s a short girl, so we asked her where the ladder was. It looked like it was going in the gap. That was the first really good contact they made.”
Of the 21 outs, 13 came via strikeout, one on the lineout, one on a groundout and six on pop ups. PHS played error-free softball behind their ace, who also smacked a two-run home run.
It was one of only five hits for the Longhorns. PHS also took advantage of six errors and two walks. “We’re finally getting our short game together on offense, which is exciting for us,” Tenney said.
Cori Barnett led off a four-run fourth that broke a scoreless tie with a double. Arissa Paulson also doubled. Dunman had an RBI single and Becky Bauer singled ahead of Arianna Paulson’s home run in the sixth.
PHS 16, Blue Ridge 2
Arissa Paulson dominated in the circle in a five-inning mercy-rule victory at Payson on Thursday, March 27 in a Division 3 Section 5 contest. The sophomore struck out 11 in the five-inning performance.
She also blasted the only hittable pitch she saw all game for a mammoth home run over the flag pole in center field. She didn’t see a strike in drawing bases on balls in her first three trips to the plate as the Yellow Jackets didn’t want to challenge her after she went 3-for-3 with a home run and a double against them in the previous meeting between the teams at the Wickenburg Invitational.
“The first three times they faced her in this game they pitched her nothing but balls,” Tenney said. “Then their relief pitcher made a mistake on the first pitch she threw her on her fourth time up and she hit it over the flag pole. It was the 13th pitch she saw and the only one close enough to hit and she got every bit of that ball. When she was coming by third base I said, ‘that’s why they walked you.’”
Arissa Paulson scored four runs.
Cori Barnett’s bases-loaded double was another highlight for the Longhorns, who had 10 hits. Arianna Paulson was 3-for-4 with a double. Payton Petersen was 2-for-4.
Payson committed just one error. “That was exciting,” Tenney said of the strong defense. “Other than a dropped third strike it was a clean game for us.”
PHS 8, Snowflake 4
Arianna Paulson scattered five hits and a walk while fanning 10 in a complete-game victory at Snowflake on Tuesday, March 25 in the Division 3 Section 5 opener. She allowed two earned runs.
Payson pounded out eight hits and took advantage of six walks and a hit batter against the Lobos’ No. 2 pitcher, who was filling in for their ace who was on spring break. Payton Petersen was 2-for-2 with two walks, Arissa Paulson 2-for-3 and Arianna Paulson 2-for-5.
The Horns scored three runs in the top of the fourth to break a 3-3 tie and added one in the sixth and one in the seventh.
“It was a great win, especially considering we were just getting back in our rhythm after spring break and the girls just getting back from Greece,” Tenney said. “We weren’t 100 percent but between the pitching and good hitting we were able to take care of Snowflake. And that was with some errors on our part. Ari was on her game. She pitched well.”
PHS returns to the diamond today at 4 p.m. to take on Holbrook in a Div. 3 Section 5 game. The JV game is at 5:30.
Div. 3 Section 5 Softball
W L GB W L
Payson 2 0 - 6 0
Holbrook 1 0 0.5 4 4
Winslow 0 0 1 8 0
Show Low 0 0 1 7 0
Globe 0 0 1 2 3
Alchesay 0 0 1 1 6
Snowflake 0 1 1.5 4 2
Blue Ridge 0 1 1.5 3 3
Round Valley 0 1 1.5 3 4
Pwr Pts Games-Power Points Games
Tuesday, April 1
Section 5 Games
Holbrook at Payson, 4 p.m.
Blue Ridge at Globe, 4 p.m.
Snowflake at Show Low, 4 p.m.
St. Johns at Round Valley, 2:30 p.m.
Willcox at Alchesay, 4 p.m.
Winslow at Cottonwood Mingus, 3:45 p.m.