ERIE — Rio Sanchez was perfectly candid when she admitted it. The Erie freshman didn’t intensely study the Tigers softball team when she was growing up.
Sure, she’d seen them play. But Sanchez said she is one of those athletes who can’t fully immerse herself into something unless she’s a part of it.
She is now, and she’s engaged in every second of it. Starting in a difficult-to-crack Tigers lineup, Sanchez helped the Tigers to an 8-4 win Saturday against Broomfield in the final game of the Erie Tournament of Champions.
She did so with her arm and her bat, earning the win as a starting pitcher while hitting a solo home run in the third inning.
“I’ve always been taught to take every opportunity that I have and I try to do that every single time,” said Sanchez, among four Tigers pitchers who continue to vie for the primary role. “Some people say they don’t like having competition or having to have to work for it, but it only makes you better.”
Sanchez pitched into the fourth of the five-inning game before Carrie Clarke recorded the final five outs. The three-day tournament at The Ballpark at Erie featured showcase matchups only and did not contain bracket play or playoffs.
After yielding a solo home run to opposing pitcher Shelby Grandt, Sanchez returned the favor with a blast to left-center two innings later.
“It was definitely payback,” she said.
The balanced Tigers recorded nine hits, and they came from eight different sources. Only leadoff hitter Kenzie Kudrna (2 for 3) had more than one. Sophomore shortstop Katie Glaze had a two-run single and was among six Tigers who drove in a run.
While nearly the entire starting lineup for the Tigers this season is familiar, Sanchez undoubtedly has worked her way into the mix. She’s done so as a position player (third base), a hitter and a pitcher.
“We try not to get too hung up on the freshman, sophomore, senior thing,” Erie coach Bob Bledsoe said. “But she’s come in and she has a presence, softball-wise, and the girls recognize it. They respect the fact that she’s a ballplayer.”
Erie (5-2-1) went 2-2-1 in the high-level tournament, which Bledsoe said provides teams an early-season look at where they stack up against top-flight competition.
Broomfield (3-4) had a tough run of it, going 0-3. The Eagles competed gamely against Erie, as Grandt went 3 for 3 with the homer and three RBIs to compensate for a tough day in the pitching circle.
Kendall Lockwood reached base three times from the No. 8 slot in the order, but it wasn’t enough against an Erie team that kept coming. The Tigers scored two runs in every inning from the second through the fifth.
“They’re always a good team and always well-coached, but they’re beatable,” Broomfield coach Paula Seifried said. “We’re starting five freshmen each game, so I’ve been impressed with what the freshmen are learning. We just need to keep growing and that’s what this whole tournament is all about.”
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Erie 8, Broomfield 4
At The Ballpark at Erie
Erie (5-2-1) 022 22 — 8 9 1
Broomfield (3-4) 110 20 — 4 7 3
W — Sanchez (2-0). L — Grandt (2-4), Sv — Clarke.
Erie hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Kudrna 3-1-2-0, Glaze 4-0-1-2, Toot 4-1-1-1, Maul 3-0-1-0, M. Foster 0-1-0-0, Sanchez 3-1-1-1, Clarke 3-2-1-1, Kovets 2-0-0-0, Foster 2-1-1-0, Hutzley 2-1-1-1. Totals 26-8-9-6. 2B — Kudrna, Clarke. HR — Sanchez (solo in 3rd). SB — Kudrna.
Broomfield hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Hughes 3-1-1-1, Goodwin 2-0-0-0, Grandt 3-1-3-3, Malkin 2-0-0-0, Gilmore 2-0-0-0, Trotter 3-0-1-0, Brock 3-0-0-0, Lockwood 3-1-2-0, Thomas 1-1-0-0. Totals 22-4-7-4. 2B — Hughes. HR — Grandt (solo in 1st).
Erie pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Sanchez 3.1-4-4-3-3-0, Clarke 1.2-3-0-0-2-0.
Broomfield pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Grandt 5-9-8-6-7-4.