The best sports rivalries involve teams that keep battling until the end, often rallying to snatch victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat.
Winslow’s softball team provided the latest evidence of why it’s rivalry with Payson is one of the best in the state in any sport on a chilly Thursday night in Payson.
Payson beat Winslow 2-1 in Winslow earlier this season. And a sweep of the two-game series would have left the Longhorns along at the top of the standings with three games remaining.
However, Winslow scored two runs in the fourth, four in the fifth and one in the sixth to hand Payson just its second loss in its last 13 power points games and create a four-team logjam at the top of the region standings.
Payson and Winslow are both 5-2 with three games remaining, while Show Low and Snowflake are 4-2 with four games remaining.
So the No. 5 Longhorns (11-3) likely need to win their remaining region games to claim the title, starting with this afternoon’s 3 o’clock tussle at No. 3 Snowflake (12-2). The Longhorns beat the Lobos 9-8 in Payson on March 26.
And, after Payson hosts No. 18 Chino Valley (7-6) in a non-region game at 1 p.m. Saturday for its fourth game in five days, the Longhorns close the home schedule against No. 7 Show Low (9-3) at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Payson’s only 3A East loss before Thursday came in an 8-7 game at Show Low on March 29 when the Cougars hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the seventh to win in walk-off fashion.
Against Winslow, Raci Miranda was 3-for-3 with a double and a two-run home run in the third inning that gave the Longhorns a 4-0 lead. She drove in three runs. Payson finished with eight hits.
But the Bulldogs went ahead 6-4 with their four-run outburst in the fifth. The Longhorns answered with a run in their half of the fifth but Winslow scored another un in the sixth and Payson’s lone run in the bottom of the sixth wasn’t enough.
Raci Miranda yielding 10 hits and four earned runs. She walked one and struck out eight. Payson committed three errors leading to three unearned runs.