Much has changed since Payson opened the season with a 4-0 loss at 2A power Camp Verde.
That March 26 game was one of the few chances the Longhorns had to step onto a field because a wet winter had forced them to practice indoors for much of the preseason.
Once the young team played a few games and the several new starters got some experience, they began to look like a competitive team.
Now, these Longhorns have established themselves as one of the premier 3A teams in the state.
One day after a 2-1 triumph at rival Winslow marked their second victory over the No. 1 3A team in the state in eight days, the Longhorns avenged that earlier loss at Camp Verde with a 6-5 win in Payson on Wednesday night over the second-ranked team in 2A. The Cowboys reached the 2A state championship game a year ago.
Payson improved to 9-2 in the power points games with its ninth win in 10 games since that shutout at Camp Verde. The only blemish on the Longhorns’ record in that time was a heartbreaking 8-7 loss at Show Low on March 29 they led going into the bottom of the seventh.
The Longhorns (14-6 counting tournament games that don’t figure in the rankings) also lost 4-3 to Camp Verde in the Gracie Lee Haught Classic. They just haven’t had much success against Cowboys junior pitcher Jacy Finley. She fired a three-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts in the first meeting between the teams. The Longhorns also managed just three hits in the tournament loss.
But they managed to break through against her on Wednesday.
She did strike out 14 Longhorns. But she also surrendered seven hits and walked three.
The Longhorns trailed 4-0 before breaking through for a run in the bottom of the fifth. They scored two more in the fifth then went ahead 6-4 with a three-run sixth. The Cowboys scored once in the seventh but it wasn’t enough.
Payson won despite being out-hit 8-7 and committing five errors.
Olivia Foster delivered two hits, including a double, and scored two runs and Rebekah Rice and Raci Miranda singled and drove in two runs apiece. Missy Chiccino singled and drove in a run and Julia Sisson walked twice and drove in a run.
Raci Miranda scattered seven hits and two walks while striking out 12 Cowboys. Only three of the five runs against her were earned.
Payson (14-6 overall) improved 9-2 in power points games with its ninth win in 10 games since the opening loss at Camp Verde.
The Cowboys fell to 9-3 and to No. 3 in Thursday’s 2A rankings.