Baseball by DJ Craig Celebration April 24

Teammates chase down RJ Butler after the senior's single in the bottom of the eighth inning drove in Jesse Conway to lift the Longhorns to a 5-4 come-from-behind win over Chino Valley in the final game of the regular season on Wednesday night. Payson finished 10-0 at home and now advances to the 3A state tournament on May 3.

Two days after watching a chance to wrap up a perfect 3A East baseball season end in a disappointing 15-5 five-inning loss at Blue Ridge, Payson’s baseball team bounced back in a big way on Wednesday night.

RJ Butler singled in Jesse Conway in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Longhorns to a 5-4 win over visiting Chino Valley.

The senior’s third walk-off hit at home this season helped Payson wrap up a perfect 10-0 record on their home field.

It was fitting that it was Butler who ended it on a night when he and five other senior teammates were recognized on the field with their families before the game.

“RJ just seems to get some great opportunities and takes advantage of them,” said Payson coach Brian Young. “I was so proud of him and love to see that it was a senior to get that hit tonight.”

It was just the latest in a season filled with dramatic comeback victories for the Longhorns.

Payson trailed 4-0 in the fourth when Hunter Harold belted a three-run home run to put the home team on the board.

“It was another clutch at bat and hit from Hunter,” Young said. “He seems to love the dramatic situations and it was a big momentum boost and really turned the game for us.”

Payson tied it in the sixth on a Conway single, Butler sacrifice bunt and a River Phillips single to drive in Conway.

Conway then doubled in the eighth to give Butler the chance to play hero once again. Conway had three hits and three runs.

He also got the win, coming on in relief in the top of the eighth. Phillips started and went seven.

Payson, which won the 3A East championship with a 9-1 record, finished 15-3 in power points games. They were ranked No. 3 in 3A entering the game.

The Longhorns will finish in the top eight teams in the rankings and earn an automatic berth in the 16-team 3A state tournament, which begins Friday, May 3 at Surprise Stadium. Those teams ranked Nos. 9-24 face a play-in game next week to qualify.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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