Raci Miranda didn’t play like a freshman when she burst onto the high school softball scene a year ago.
She seemed much older as she crushed pitch after pitch as one of the most feared hitters in Payson’s batting order and played stellar defense at shortstop. She was voted to the All-3A East Second Team, partly because of her freshman status. A senior who played like her likely would have made the first team.
The graduation of the best 3A pitcher in the state, Kalea Smith, left the Longhorns with a big void in the circle heading into this season. And Miranda stepped right in and filled it.
The sophomore dominated in the circle, finishing with the second-most strikeouts in program history according to available records.
She also continued to bash the softball at the plate.
As a result, Miranda was voted 3A East Player of the Year. She was also selected to the 3A All-State First Team.
She is one of three Longhorns to make the All-3A East First Team. Her senior sister, Mercedes, as well as junior catcher Chanci Landress, joined her on the first team.
Make no mistake, as talented as she is, Raci Miranda put in the work necessary to perform like she did.
“As soon as last season was over, Raci began working on her pitching and hitting,” said Payson coach Curtis Johnson. “I’m not sure if she took more than a week off between seasons. Her success this year is directly tied to her extreme work ethic and competitive spirit to be the best she can be.”
She was 19-7 with 2.53 ERA and 260 strikeouts in 169 innings pitched in 29 games started this season.
The strikeout total is the second-most for a Payson pitcher in the 10 years statistics are available (2010-2019) behind the 375 by Arissa Paulson in 2015. Kalea Smith had ranked second with the 252 strikeouts she had a year ago in a season in which she was voted 3A Defensive Player of the Year.
In statistics reported at MaxPreps.com, Raci Miranda also led the Longhorns in batting average (.468), triples (4), on base (.542), slugging (.831), OPS (.1.373), stolen bases (11) and drove in 28 runs and scored 26 more.
Landress, who was 3A All-State Honorable Mention, also made the All-3A East First Team last season. According to MaxPreps.com, she batted .388 and led Payson in extra-base hits (20), home runs (8) and doubles (11) despite missing four games with an injury. She drove in 19 runs and scored 20. She finished second in slugging (.823) and OPS (1.259). She also was a top catcher with a strong throwing arm. She committed just three errors in 223 total chances (.987).
“Chanci was outstanding this year and had a great season,” Johnson said. “She continues to get better every year and we’re excited to see her achievements her senior year.”
Mercedes Miranda made big strides in her second year as a varsity starter. The first baseman hit in the cleanup spot in the order and did indeed do a superb job cleaning off the bases as she led Payson with 31 runs batted, according to MaxPreps.com, in a campaign that saw her hit .375 with seven doubles and 16 runs scored. Her 30 hits ranked third on the team.
“Mercedes had a great year,” Johnson said. “She was a starter last year but this year she improved to an impact player who led the team in RBIs.”
The coach applauded the performances of all three of the team’s first-team all-region players.
“We’re extremely proud of all three ladies’ success this past year,” Johnson said.
Seven Longhorns received recognition on the All-3A East team in voting by coaches.
Senior outfielder Makyla Hill and junior third baseman Julia Sisson made the All-3A East Second Team.
Senior Olivia Foster and junior Kara Percell were all-region honorable mention.
Payson finished 20-9 overall and No. 3 in the final 3A regular season rankings. The Longhorns finished second in the 3A East at 7-3, one game back of a Winslow team they split two region games with.