BROOMFIELD — It's fair to say that it's been a struggle finding a rhythm for the Erie baseball team so far this season, and not necessarily for reasons under their own control.
Because of a pair of spring snow storms, Erie went 15 days between contests, only able to get two games in during the first three weeks of the season.
Even with the warmer weather the last few days, Erie's home field is still unplayable, forcing Saturday's home game to be moved to Holy Family, where the team found itself down 7-0 after an inning and half of play.
But one thing coach Harold Simmons really likes about his club this season is it's willingness to fight, an attribute Erie showed in spades in coming back to pick up a 9-7 victory in the team's 4A Tri-Valley League opener.
"We struggled out of the gate here — play, three weeks off, play," said Simmons, whose team improved to 1-2 overall, 1-0 in league. "They're a tough group, they're mentally tough. That's what I like about them. That's my favorite part about them."
No one showed more mental toughness than senior Josh Crites on Saturday, who took the ball to start the game for Erie. But his day on the hill didn't last long, as Holy Family (3-2, 1-2) got a two-run homer from Kennedy Phillips in the first and five more runs in the second to force him from the mound.
Given a chance for redemption at the plate later in the contest, Crites delivered in the bottom of the fifth, smacking a triple to the wall in center to score Ruben Portillo from first with an unearned run that proved to be the game winner.
"All game I had been ahead, I couldn't stay back on the ball," said Crites, who moved to short after his stint on the mound. "I just thought to myself, 'Stay back and find a pitch to drive.' So I found a pitch.
"I was still out in front, but I found the gap I guess."
After falling behind early, Erie worked it's way back into the contest by taking advantage of a couple of Holy Family miscues before stringing together some hits in the bottom of the second inning. An error and a hit-batsmen put a pair of runners on with one out for nine-hole hitter Hunter Nelson, who drilled a shot to right center that scored two.
After Holy Family recorded the second out of the inning, a walk set the stage for Clint Allen, who hit a two-run double to center. Luke Conilogue's RBI back up the middle closed out the five-run frame for Erie.
"We didn't give up," Crites said. "That's what's really nice about this team. We're loose, we play well together and we have fun."
While Erie's bats started heating up, Portillo took over on the mound and shut down Holy Family the rest of the way. A right-handed junior, Portillo pitched five scoreless one-hit innings to get the win.
"He did a great job," Simmons said. "He's working on some things and tweaking some things, but he could end up being our ace in the end."
Phillip Elliott, Jon Coufal and Phillips all finished with a pair of RBI for Holy Family.
Erie 9, Holy Family 7
At Holy Family
Holy Family 250 000 0 — 7 6 2
Erie 052 011 x — 9 7 2
W — Portillo. L — Brassil.
Holy Family hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Elliott 3-1-1-2, Karty 3-1-1-1, Phillips 3-2-2-2, Coufal 4-0-1-2, Nelson 3-0-0-0, Miller 2-0-0-0, Trujillo 1-1-0-0, Rode 2-1-1-0, Becker 1-1-0-0. 2B —Elliott, Coufal. 3B —Karty. HR —Phillips.
Erie hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Crites 3-0-1-1, Deckert 3-1-0-0, Allen 3-2-3-2, Conilogue 3-0-2-2, Gavit 4-0-0-0, Elliston 3-0-0-0, Sorenson 2-1-0-0, Villa 2-1-0-0, Nelson 1-1-1-2, Portillo 1-2-0-0. 2B — Allen 2, Nelson. 3B —Crites.
Holy Family pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Heller 3-5-5-1-2-1, Brassil 2 2/3-2-2-1-4, Becker 1/3-0-0-0-0-1
Erie pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Crite 2-5-7-7-4-3, Portillo 5-1-0-0-0-1.
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