SHOW LOW — This one hurt.
Payson has dropped a couple of baseball games this season that left the Longhorns with a bad taste in their mouths. But no mouthwash can cover the rotten aftertaste of Friday’s devastating loss at Show Low.
The Longhorns had arch-rival Show Low right where they wanted them. But it all fell apart as the Cougars (22-5) rallied from a 6-1 deficit to post an 8-7 victory on their home field.
“This was a tough loss to take,” said Payson coach Brian Young. “I feel like we gift wrapped the game and handed it back to them. If you go out and score seven runs against one of the top Division 3 pitchers, you have to like your chances. This is the kind of day you feel like your defense let down your offense.”
The offense certainly wasn’t the problem as Payson (16-8) outhit the Cougars 12-8 to put senior left-hander James Lewis in jeopardy of losing just his third game in 10 decisions. PHS managed just five hits in a 10-6 non-section loss to Show Low at Payson on March 13. Lewis baffled the Longhorns that day, coming on to limit Payson to one hit over four innings of shutout relief.
But the Horns got to him early in the rematch as five straight batters reached on four hits and a walk in a four-run first inning. PHS added two more runs in the second to go ahead 6-1.
“To get four runs in the top of the first against such a tough pitcher was really big for us,” Young said. “We came out swinging the bats so well.”
But Show Low rallied.
“Even with a 6-1 lead after two innings I didn’t feel really comfortable because we know how well Show Low can hit,” Young said.
The Cougars, who scored a run in the first, added a run in the third and David Chimera’s two-out three-run homer in the fourth cut the deficit to 6-5. Chimera’s blast on a day when a stiff breeze was blowing straight out, followed a walk to the No. 8 hitter and a single to the No. 9 hitter.
“If there’s one area our pitchers have struggled in all season it is against guys at the bottom of the order,” Young said. “Show Low’s eight and nine hitters were on base five of six at bats. We have to be tougher against guys in those spots.”
And then came the decisive sixth, where the home team scored three runs to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Nick McMullen came on in relief of starter Tyus Sarnowski after a walk with one out in the sixth.
“He came in and got a tailor-made double play ball and we ended up dropping the throw,” Young said. “It was a huge momentum twist because we would have been out of the inning, instead they went on and scored three runs on a couple of ground balls that got through our infield and a passed ball.”
Taran Sarnowski reached base four times, going 3-for-3 with an intentional walk and two RBIs. Tyus Sarnowski was 3-for-4 with a double, RBI and two runs. Nick McMullen went 2-for-3 with a walk and Dailey Carnes was 2-for-4 with a double, RBI and two runs.
“I was really pleased with our hitters approach against Lewis,” Young said.
Tyus Sarnowski allowed seven hits, three walks and six runs — five earned — in 5 2/3 innings, striking out eight. McMullen was touched for two hits and two runs in 2/3 of an inning.
Payson, Show Low and Winslow entered Friday in a three-way tie for first place in the Division 3 Section 5 standings at 5-1. The loss eliminated Payson from the title chase and the win left the Cougars with a half-game lead over the idle Bulldogs. But Winslow’s 7-1 win over Show Low on Wednesday means the Bulldogs win the tiebreaker with Show Low if the teams wind up tied for first.
Show Low stood at No. 4 in the Division 3 power rankings as of Monday morning with a 15-2 record in power points games. The Longhorns were No. 7 with a 12-5 record in power points games. The top eight seeds in the state tournament earn a first-round bye.
Div. 3 Section 5 Baseball
Section Power Pts.
W L GB W L
Show Low 6 1 - 15 2
Winslow 5 1 0.5 12 5
Payson 5 2 1 12 5
Snowflake 5 2 1 12 4
Blue Ridge 4 2 1.5 7 9
Round Valley 3 3 2.5 8 8
Holbrook 1 6 5 5 11
Globe 1 6 5 1 14
Alchesay 0 7 6 5 13
Monday, April 28
Section 5 Game
Blue Ridge at Show Low
San Tan Foothills at Globe
Payson at Estrella Foothills
Tuesday, April 29
Section 5 Games
Alchesay at Holbrook, 3 p.m.
Round Valley at Winslow, 3:30 p.m.
Show Low at Snowflake, 4 p.m.
Globe at Blue Ridge, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, April 30
Section 5 Games
Winslow at Snowflake, 1:30 p.m.
Round Valley at Blue Ridge, 6 p.m.
Globe at Payson, 6:30 p.m.
St. Johns at Holbrook, 4 p.m.