FREDERICK — The function of last year's Erie softball lineup was primarily a secondary support role, trying its best to scratch out runs behind lights out starting pitcher Rio Sanchez.
Well Sanchez is still around and still doing her thing. But the Tigers' offensive improvement is a major reason the club has surged forward and become one of the favorites to win the Class 4A state title in 2016. In its first real test since being named 4A's No. 1 team in the CHSAANow.com ranking, the undefeated Erie softball club played an away game against rival Frederick on Thursday.
Paced by a monster 3-run home run from junior Kara Kovets, the Tigers' powerful offense was on full display in what ended up an 11-1 rivalry win.
"This year, we're working more on our technique and stringing together hits," Kovets said. "We're not trying to hit home runs all the time. On that play, I had a 3-0 count and I knew I could swing as hard as I could because I still had to more strikes left. I just squared up the ball, I guess."
Frederick (6-7, 6-2 Tri-Valley), a top-ten caliber team in its own right but having battled injury early in the season, lost to Erie (12-0, 7-0 Tri-Valley) in a big-time season opener between top-five teams on Aug. 23. In the midseason rematch between the two clear Tri-Valley league leaders, the Warriors matched Erie freshman Kat Sackett's second-inning solo shot with some small ball against Sanchez in the second to keep the game tied 1-1 early.
But with two on in the top of the third, Kovets connected on a long home run to left field that not only cleared the fence and the sidewalk but dented a Silver Nissan that was parked 20 feet into the parking lot. Kovets' solo shot kicked off a nine-run third inning.
Facing three different Warriors pitchers, the Tigers scored single runs in the fourth and fifth while Sanchez held the Warriors to one run to end the game in five innings. Sanchez, who sports a 1.09 ERA, allowed two hits while striking out nine.
"Frederick is obviously a really good program," Erie head coach Harold Simmons said. "They're missing some players but they've battled their butts off with their three and third four pitchers. They're going to beat a lot of teams come playoff time. I just thought we had really good at-bats, which we've been getting better at all year."
The Tigers will look to tighten their grip on the Tri-Valley lead when they host third-place Berthoud (8-4, 6-2 Tri-Valley) on Saturday. The Warriors will host Skyline (2-10, 0-7 Tri-Valley) on Tuesday.
Erie 11, Frederick 1
At Frederick H.S.
Erie (11-0, 7-0) 018 11 — 11 10 0
Frederick (6-7, 6-2) 010 00 — 1 2 2
W — Sanchez. L — Goodard.
Erie hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Foster 4-1-1-1, Sanchez 1-1-0-0, Hackney 2-2-1-1, Kovetz 4-1-3-4, Bauchert 4-0-1-0, Capra 4-1-1-0, Sackett 2-2-1-1, Phillips 2-2-2-1, Weber 2-1-0-0. Totals 25-11-10-8. 2B — Foster, Hackney, Phillips. HR — Sackett (solo in second), Kovetz (two on in third). SB — Phillips.
Frederick hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Massey 2-0-0-0, Teller 2-0-0-0, Woods 2-0-0-0, Wyatt 2-1-2-0, McCullough 1-0-0-0, Hernandez 2-0-0-0, Ellis 1-0-0-1, Goodard 2-0-0-0, Brunstrom 1-0-0-0, Huerta 1-0-0-0. 2B — Wyatt. SB — Wyatt.
Erie pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Sanchez 5-2-1-1-0-9.
Frederick pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Goodard 2-3-4-4-4-1, Reagin 1/3-3-5-4-2-1, McCullough 2 2/3-4-2-1-1-1.