Erie’s Rio Sanchez pitches during the state tournament on Oct. 4. Sanchez is the softball player of the year.
Erie's Rio Sanchez pitches during the state tournament on Oct. 4. Sanchez is the softball player of the year. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

ERIE — You know you're something special and you look like you're the best.

Her name is Rio and she dances away with the Player of the Year honors.

Well, it's not exactly how Simon LeBon and the boys of Duran Duran worded it, but it works.

Erie's Rio Sanchez, who is in fact named for the popular hit released by the British band in 1982, was brilliant in the circle for the Tigers and was equally powerful at the plate in earning the honor.

"She really bought in to some thought processes that we were trying to teach in the circle for her," Erie coach Harold Simmons said. "And I am really proud of her. and the work she was putting in inside the circle."

Simmons, a longtime baseball guy, was used to pitch-counts and trying to get strikeouts with his hurlers and it was something he imparted on her to simply go get and take control of the game.

"At first she was hesitant," said Simmons, who pointed to her game against Sequoyah, Oklahoma in the Tournament of Champions as one of her standout performances. "It was trying to figure out ways to get weak contact as opposed to trying to pitch for strikeouts and sometimes when your doing that, you might accidently leave a change-up up that gets hit."

When all the numbers were added up, Sanchez went 21-3 and struck out 197 and walked just 32. She threw a no-hitter in the first game of the season against Berthoud.


Sanchez, who also hit .439, helped guide the Tigers to a Tri-Valley League championship and a No. 3 overall seed at the state tournament last month. On the second day at the Aurora Sports Park, Sanchez and the Tigers faced No. 2-seed and defending state champion Valor Christian in the semifinals.

She had a no-hitter going to the seventh-inning and the game was still knotted 0-0 when Valor's Lauren Foster belted a solo home run over the right field fence.

"I have no complaints. That one pitch, if I could take it back I would, but I did what I supposed to do and she just got a hold of it," Sanchez said.

In a season full of highlights, especially in the circle, Sanchez favorite moment of the year came in the first game of the state tournament against Discovery Canyon — that ended up going 10 innings.

"Everyone expected it to be done by then," she recalls. "We had to fight and fight and fight and it just took so much out of everybody and then I hit a three-run walk-off home run and that was probably the highlight of the year."

Only a junior, Sanchez is already drawing interest from colleges. Locally she has talked with Northern Colorado and has visits set up next week at Ball State and Central Arkansas.

Jon Yunt: or