DENVER — Just simply getting the chance to participate in the first ever Downtown Showdown at Metro State University is a jolt to the RPI of any of the teams involved.
To come home with a win or two will get the dugout jumping and for Erie, coming off two wins this week in dominant fashion, a late-inning rally against 5A Arvada West that resulted in a 2-1 victory had all their cleats in the air for a brief amount of time.
Facing veteran Wildcats pitcher Morgan Clausen on Saturday morning, Erie rallied to tie the game at 1-1 on Elise Capra's double with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, and the Tigers went on to win two innings later by getting two aboard to lead off the final frame.
With runners Alia Brand and Sloane Quijas on first and second, Kara Kovets delivered a sacrifice bunt attempt that Clausen opted to throw toward third, but her throw got away and sent Brand waltzing home with the winning run.
"There was a little bit of tenseness to it because of the situation, and I liked the way we handled it overall," said coach Harold Simmons, whose team improved to 3-0 before taking on Wheat Ridge later Saturday.
The Downtown Showdown was put together with the help of Metro State coach Annie Van Wetzinga and this year included Erie, Frederick, Wheat Ridge, Valor Christian, Grandview, Pomona, Arvada West, Mountain Range and Legend. Pomona, Mountain Range, Valor and Wheat Ridge were in last year's state championship games, and the rest were not far back.
"It's amazing to be playing on Metro's field, which is just a great complex. But it's especially good to see what other top teams are bringing this year," Capra said, noting the team is also excited for its own Erie Tournament of Champions next weekend.
With the exception of a couple hits, Erie didn't square up on a lot of Clausen's throws throughout the game —neither did the Wildcats against Rio Sanchez, who struck out 12.
Capra's knock — which scored Kovets to make it 1-1 — seemed to sway momentum in Erie's favor. Sanchez got through the eighth and ninth innings unscathed, and then when her turn to bat came in the ninth, she took advantage of a throwing miscue to get to second base to lead off the frame. Quijas, a pinch hitter, drew a walk and that brought up Kovets for an obvious sacrifice situation.
In the end, both Simmons and Capra said the Tigers passed their first test of the season.
"It's stressful but you just have to keep your head in the game, be mentally there and want to win," Capra said. "We always want to put pressure on the other team. It's a lot of fun."
"(Clausen) pitched the heck out of it, and her movement was great all the way up until that seventh inning," Simmons added. "We hit a few hard that didn't sneak through and we had some base running mistakes that could have had us beat. The girls do a good job battling and they just kept plugging away."
Erie 2, Arvada West 1 (9 innings)
At Metro State University
Arvada West 000 100 000 — 1 2 4
Erie 000 000 101 — 2 4 2
W — Sanchez (3-0). L — Clausen.
Arvada West hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Winters 4-0-0-0, Fletcher 3-1-0-0, Mitchell 3-0-2-0, Phillips 4-0-0-0, Clausen 4-0-0-0, Russell 4-0-0-0, Novotny 2-0-0-0, Dowell 3-0-0-0, Robb 3-0-0-0. Totals 30-1-2-0.
Erie hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Maddie Foster 4-0-0-0, Rio Sanchez 4-0-1-0, Alia Brand 0-1-0-0, Hannah Hackney 3-0-1-0, Sloane Quijas 0-0-0-0, Kara Kovets 4-1-1-0, Lynsey Bauchert 3-0-0-0, Elise Capra 3-0-1-1, Kat Sackett 3-0-0-0, Jade Phillips 3-0-0-0, Morgan Weber 2-0-0-0, Katie Huonder 0-0-0-0. Totals 29-2-4-1.
Arvada West pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Clausen 8-4-2-0-2-6.
Erie pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Sanchez 9-2-1-0-3-12.