No. 1-ranked Payson scored four runs in the top of the seventh to rally from a 5-4 deficit and beat host Winslow 8-5 for its ninth straight baseball win on Tuesday.
Winslow led 3-1 after one inning. Payson broke through for a run in the fifth and two in the sixth to take a 4-3 lead.
But the Bulldogs answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth to get within three outs of handing the Longhorns their first loss in 28 days.
In the top of the seventh, however, Kevin Cerna singled, Jesse Conway was hit by a pitch and RJ Butler singled to load the bases. Hunter Harold singled in Cerna and Conway followed him across the plate with the go-ahead run on an error. River Phillips then doubled in both Austin Rice (running for Butler), and Harold.
Phillips struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to earn the complete-game win.
“We really showed some intensity at the end to dig deep and get the runs we needed,” said Payson coach Brian Young.
“It isn’t easy to win region games on the road, but this team seems to find a way to kick it into an extra gear when we need it. Winslow played a really good game and we had to battle.
Kevin Cerna was 3-for-4 to lead the 11-hit attack. Phillips delivered two hits and the two RBIs. Butler added two hits and an RBI and Alan Cerna doubled and drove in two.
Phillips scattered six hits and four walks. He struck out seven. Payson committed an error, but all five runs were earned.
Young loved what the junior gave his team on the hill.
“He got a couple of bad bounces in the first inning and weathered a storm in the sixth,” Young said. “Then he came back really strong after we grabbed the lead and struck out the side in the seventh. I liked his composure and presence on the mound. He gave us everything we needed.”
Payson (12-3 overall) improved to 10-1 in power points games and reached the halfway point in the 3A East Region schedule with a 5-0 record.
No. 11 Show Low and No. 13 Winslow (7-4 power points) are tied for fourth with 2-3 records.