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In its 16th year, the annual Erie Tournament of Champions continues to grow and produce an increasingly competitive softball atmosphere that now rivals the Colorado state tournament.

With 32 teams from either Colorado or Oklahoma in attendance this season, the field featured 30 players who have verbally committed to Division-I collegiate programs, 28 to Division-II schools and 10 to junior college programs. It was the perfect early-season opportunity for some of Colorado's top title hopefuls to test their mettle.

A number of strong teams from the area were in attendance.

The host Erie Tigers, who now sit atop Colorado's Class 4A RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) standings, took full advantage of that opportunity and racked up three more quality wins.

"We're pretty thrilled," Erie head coach Harold Simmons said. "We haven't played Broken Arrow in five or six years. They're the staple of this tournament every year. We went toe-to-toe with them and it was tense and tight. It was a good playoff type atmosphere."

The Tigers (8-0) have won 11 state titles since 1998, most recently winning the 4A championship in 2010, and entered the season ranked second in Class 4A. This past Saturday, the Tigers' resume held up against three recent title contenders from Oklahoma. They won 2-1 over Mustang (2014 6A champs), 9-3 over Sequoyah (2012, 2013 3A runners-up) and won a 13-12 slugfest with powerhouse Broken Arrow (seven 6A titles since 1998).

"To be 8-0 through the eight games we've played, I think that's impressive," Simmons said. "I'm always impressed with how the kids handle the schedule we play and we've done a great job so far."

Ranked sixth in 4A Silver Creek (7-1) went 4-0 in the 4A/5A Bracket, beating 4A Pueblo West, 10-2, 5A Heritage, 12-1, 5A Chatfield, 7-1, and 5A Pine Creek, 10-4.

Legacy (5-1) went 2-1 in the Champions Bracket, beating seventh-ranked 5A Pomona, 12-8, and Oklahoma's Spiro, 12-4, before losing 12-2 to Broken Arrow. Ranked sixth in 5A, Broomfield (5-2) went 2-2 in the Champions Bracket losing to, 4A Mullen, 3-0, beating Mustang, 16-6, losing to Oklahoma 6A Power Union, 6-2, and beating Oklahoma 6A Stillwater, 5-1.

Fifth in 4A, Frederick (3-6) went 0-3 in the Champions Bracket, losing to Sequoyah, 7-4, 5A Legend, 7-6, and 5A Grandview, 7-2. Niwot (3-4) went 1-3 in the 4A/5A Bracket, losing to Mullen, 5-2, Pueblo West, 9-1, and 5A Chatfield, 6-5. The Cougars beat 5A Heritage, 10-5.

Arvada West (5-2-1) went 4-0-1 and was crowned the tournament champion.

"The tournament as a whole was great," Simmons said. "As always, the level of play was incredible."

Brad Cochi: or