Third-ranked Payson suffered a 4-2 loss at No. 7 Lakeside Blue Ridge in the final softball game of the season on Monday.
The setback coupled with top-ranked Winslow’s 2-0 win at No. 4 Snowflake (15-4) on Monday gave the Bulldogs (14-2 power points) the 3A East Region Championship and left the Longhorns (15-4 power points) in second place. Winslow finished 8-2 in the region. Payson finished 7-3, one game ahead of third-place Snowflake (6-4).
A win would have given the Longhorns at least a share of the title since they split their two games against Winslow, and the Horns likely would have won the tiebreaker set up by the AIA because of a better record in 3A Conference games. However, they couldn’t complete the two-game season sweep of the No. 7 Yellow Jackets (11-6).
The Yellow Jackets avenged a 10-2 loss at Payson on March 27 and finished 4-6 in the region and in fifth place by limiting the Longhorns to three hits. Alex Hagan was 2-for-2 with a run. She also reached base when she was hit by a pitch. Missy Chiccino had the only other hit and scored the other run.
Blue Ridge scored four runs in the bottom of the first and that was enough to squelch the Longhorns’ championship bid. Raci Miranda limited Blue Ridge to just four hits and a walk while striking out 11. Only one of the Yellow Jackets’ runs was earned thanks to two Payson errors.
Payson is virtually assured of earning one of the top eight berths in the state tournament, which starts Saturday. The top eight teams in the rankings advance to play in the first round at Rose Mofford Softball Complex in Phoenix. Those ranked 9-24 face a play-in game at the high seed on Wednesday to earn a berth.
The play-in game pairings will be announced on Tuesday.
No. 5 Show Low (11-6) beat No. 26 Holbrook 17-5 on Monday to finish fourth in the 3A East with a 5-5 record. Holbrook finished sixth with an 0-10 record.