ERIE — Sixteen years strong. The baby of Erie softball coach Bob Bledsoe, the Erie Tournament of Champions continues to draw some elite teams despite the emergence of a handful of other big-time area tournaments early in the season.
On Thursday, the tournament begins at the Ballpark at Erie (450 Power St.) with a slate of nine games and continues through Saturday with 32 total contests played on six fields — Friday and Saturday will include action at Erie's two diamonds, as well. It's a large undertaking for the Tigers, but one that seems to be worthwhile.
"It doesn't go on without help from Bledsoe, either. Even from afar (he is the coach at Fruita Monument), he's still helping and grinding away at organizing it," current Erie coach Harold Simmons said on Wednesday. "Our kids and our families continue to do a great job at holding that thing down, and I think it's a great experience.
"It gives us a state playoff feel, and there's just a lot of great matchups throughout the whole thing. The cross-classification games with the big programs are fun."
The Downtown Showdown, which was held at Metro State for the second year of its existence just last week, is coming on strong as a premier event on a college diamond — but Simmons doesn't see it as something that is threatening to the ETOC. In fact, Simmons is adamant the Tigers will continue to support the Showdown as they have both years.
The ETOC has gotten Oklahoma teams to fill in brackets for years now, and it appears this year that five teams (Broken Arrow, Union, Sequoyah, Grove, Chouteau) will be making the long drive for the weekend.
It's hard to narrow down what games might be the best in this one — with 14 CHSAANow-ranked 5A and 4A teams involved. Basically, no matter what games or days you decide to go out you'll find one or two, perhaps six or seven, you'd not regret sitting down and watching.
Here is a list of the Colorado ranked teams participating in the tournament, in order of their rank in their classification:
•Eaglecrest (Tied-Class 5A No. 1)
•Broomfield (Tied-Class 5A No. 1)
•Cherokee Trail (5A No. 3)
•Legacy (5A No. 5)
•Legend (5A No. 7)
•Ralston Valley (5A No. 9)
•Rock Canyon (5A No. 10)
•Wheat Ridge (4A No. 3)
•Mullen (4A No. 4)
•Erie (4A No. 5)
•Silver Creek (4A No. 6)
•Pueblo West (4A No. 7)
•Mountain View (4A No. 8)
•Frederick (4A No. 9)