ERIE — The Erie Festival of Champions softball tournament is one where Silver Creek head coach Ryan Beavers has always said a 2-2 weekend record equates to a good mark considering the challenging teams involved.
By those standards, the 2017 version of the revered event was well below expectations for the Raptors. Saturday's 9-9 tie against Discovery Canyon, in Beavers' book, for all intents and purposes rounded up a disappointing two-day stretch with a whimper.
There was fight in Silver Creek, yes — the Raptors came back from deficits of 5-0, 8-7, and 9-8 to get the draw — but the defensive problems that plagued the team in a pair of Friday losses to Oklahoma teams did not subside on Saturday.
After a morning loss to 5A-ranked Rock Canyon (an 8-7 final), errors led to runs for the Thunder in each of the first three innings at Erie High School in their second Saturday game and defensive lapses all around led to some long innings on the sun-drenched field.
"We asked for, and drew, tough opponents all weekend for good reason — you want to get punched in the face a little bit to know and see what you have to work on," Beavers said after the game, his team now 4-3-1 as Northern League play picks up this week. "I applaud their grittiness trying to work through some stuff, but at the end of the day it's a razor-thin line between success and failure and the theme that hurt us all weekend was our defense.
"We showed we're human. Doesn't detract from what we do going forward, but it shows what things we need to be better at."
High expectations are in place for SCHS after last year's finish at state, and after beating Broomfield in a tight game a few weeks ago those expectations were cemented a little more.
However, against vaunted Sequoyah (Okla.) on Friday, the Raptors had seven errors in a 9-0 defeat, and a few bad-timed miscues cost them in a 10-7 loss to Union (Okla.).
The big deficit against the Thunder was daunting, but the Raptors were able to bounce back quickly by putting pressure on Discovery Canyon's defense, and Dana Dwyer's two hits in the first and second innings keyed seven runs from the Raptor lineup.
The Raptors also used speed on the base paths to move up on several opportunities throughout the game.
Down a run in the fourth, Emma Flynn singled, stole second and took third on a wild pitch, and Bailey Beavers was able to bunt her home to tie the game at 8-8.
The Thunder, which fell just outside the rankings in the preseason CHSAANow.com poll, scored again in the fifth — and yes, an error played a role — but Dwyer was able to bring home Taylor Nielsen on a sacrifice fly to make it 9-9. Tournament time limits kept the game from advancing to another inning.
"We really battled through a lot of things defensively and offensively, and I think you try to get a little bit better in each category as you go on," Dwyer said. "We started off this one down, but we came back and didn't lose our mentality that we could win it."
"We need to get a few more quality at-bats from the bottom of the lineup," Beavers said. "I know this is a good squad and we're talented. It's just, I didn't see the same squad this weekend that I saw beat Broomfield a few weeks back."