The wound had festered for 11 months.
On Tuesday, the Longhorns drew some blood of their own.
After watching Winslow end their dream of a state championship in the Division 3 semifinals last May, Payson’s softball players finally pushed that frustration behind them with a 2-0 victory over the perennial state powerhouse in Payson.
Sophomore Arissa Paulson struck out 14 batters in a three-hit shutout as the top-ranked Longhorns handed the second-ranked Bulldogs their first loss of the season, dropping them to No. 3 behind Show Low by Wednesday morning.
“We knew it was going to be a close game and we just had to score one or two then live off of Arissa’s good pitching and our defense,” said Payson coach Kadi Tenney. “And that’s what happened. So we snuck a couple in and that made the difference.”
The 10th-grader also came up big at the plate and on the bases in this pitchers’ duel. Payson also managed only three hits against Taylor Baca. Fortunately for PHS, they came from three consecutive hitters in the decisive fourth inning.
Sadie Dunman led off the fourth with a bloop single and Paulson lined a double to left to drive her home and break the scoreless tie. After Payton Petersen followed with a single and courtesy runner Ali Tenney stole second, an aggressive Paulson took advantage of a mental lapse by the Winslow catcher to steal home with an insurance run.
It looked like it might be a big inning when Cori Barnett appeared to reach on a bunt, scoring Paulson. However, after a discussion, the umpires ruled Barnett made contact with the ball and was out, sending Paulson back to third and Tenney to second.
The next batter, Jewel Johnson popped out to the catcher in front of the plate on a bunt attempt for the second out and an alert Paulson raced home when the catcher walked the ball back to the pitcher. Johnson took third on the double steal.
The two runs were more than enough for Paulson, who had Bulldogs swinging at air all day. Ten of the 14 strikeouts came on swinging third strikes.
She retired 20 of the last 22 batters she faced, including 12 of the final 13 after PHS took the lead. She ended it on a high note, striking out the side in the seventh. She fanned at least two in every inning but the sixth, when she struck out one.
“It helps when I know my defense has got my back,” she said. “That makes it easier out there. They did well.”
Winslow managed to get just two runners to second base. Halle Hayes, who was 2-for-3, led off the game with a single and was stranded at second after a sacrifice bunt. Renee Bollin singled with one out in the fifth and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
“We don’t face pitching like this in most of our games during the season,” Winslow coach Kelli Fifelski said. “They have excellent pitching. We do prepare for it, but it just wasn’t our hitting game today.”
Their sixth consecutive win pushed the Longhorns’ record to 18-8 overall.
PHS carried a 9-0 record in power points games into Wednesday’s home game against No. 2 Show Low. The Longhorns improved to 4-0 halfway though their Section 5 schedule. Winslow fell to 19-1 overall and 10-1 in power points games and 1-1 in the section.
“It was good because Winslow’s always a good team and they’re ranked high,” Arissa Paulson said. “So it was fun. It’s always exciting to play them because it’s close and it can go either way.”
The Longhorns threatened to add to the lead when they loaded the bases in the fifth as Rachel Spooner reached on a throwing error to lead off the inning and Dunman (who had two walks) and Arissa Paulson drew two-out walks. But Baca retired the next hitter to escape further damage.
Winslow won this year’s Gracie Haught Classic a couple of weeks ago at Payson. PHS didn’t even qualify for the championship bracket because four of its starters, including both Arissa and Arianna Paulson, weren’t there.
So it was certainly nice for the Longhorns to show the Bulldogs how good they actually can be with their full team.
Of course, the Longhorns now have a big bull’s-eye on their backs after Tuesday’s performance solidified their No. 1 ranking.
“That’s always the down side to being the No. 1 team is everyone’s gunning for you,” Tenney said. “Everyone’s trying to figure out how to beat you. So, yeah, it puts us at a disadvantage later on down the road just because the pressure’s on us to keep our position.”
PHS hosts Camp Verde at 2 p.m. Saturday before resuming Section 5 action at Blue Ridge at 3:45 p.m. Monday. Camp Verde was No. 10 in the Division 3 power rankings and Blue Ridge No. 9 as of Wednesday morning.
Payson 2, Winslow 0
Winslow ab r h bi Payson ab r h bi
HHayes 2b 3 0 2 0 AnPaulson ss 3 0 0 0
Lymer cf 2 0 0 0 Dunman 2b 1 1 1 0
Villanueva 1b 3 0 0 0 AsPaulson p 2 1 1 1
Baca p 3 0 0 0 Petersen c 3 0 1 0
Smith ss 3 0 0 0 Barnett cf 3 0 0 0
JHayes c 3 0 0 0 Johnson 1b 2 0 0 0
Bollin 3b 2 0 1 0 Smith rf 3 0 0 0
Lozano lf 2 0 0 0 Spooner lf 2 0 0 0
Branson rf 2 0 0 0 Bauer 3b 2 0 0 0
Totals 23 0 3 0 Totals 21 2 3 1
Winslow 0 0 0 2 0 0 x - 2
Payson 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0
E-Winslow 2. LOB-Winslow 3, Payson 5. 2B-Aris. Paulson. BB-Dunman 2, Aris. Paulson. SB-Aris. Paulson, Tenney (CR), Spooner. CS-Dunman, Barnett. Sac-Lymer, Johnson.
Winslow IP H R ER BB K
Taylor Baca (Loss) 6 3 2 2 3 4
Payson IP H R ER BB K
Arissa Paulson (Win) 7 3 0 0 0 14