After giving up two solo home runs in the top of the first inning, the Aztec softball team responded in a big way to top the 6A Rio Rancho Lady Rams in the finals of the Kristin Griego Tournament.
The Lady Tigers plated 13 runs in the next four innings to post a 13-3 win over the tournament host last Saturday afternoon.
“It’s real nice to win this tournament because this is a class act tournament,” Aztec coach Roy Johnson said. “They do a good job here and (Rio Rancho coach) Paul Kohman is a good friend of my mine. I love to come here.”
The Tigers finished the 24-team tournament with a 5-0 record, which included a 5-0 shutout win over 6A Cleveland in the semifinals.
“I love to compete on this stage,” Johnson said. “Our kids believe they can play with anybody. When they come out we don’t have fears of playing 6A, 5A, 4A or 3A. It doesn’t matter. If we’re playing, we’re pretty tough to beat.”
While trying to give the Lady Rams a different look, Johnson said he was hoping to throw some different pitches at Rio Rancho at the start of the game. The Rams, however, took advantage of a pair changeups from Aztec ace pitcher Paige Adair as leadoff hitter Venessa Gallegos and Brianna Gallegos hit a pair of solo home runs.
“It was not a really good idea to do that,” Johnson said. “They knock the snot out of it and I take the blame for that.”
Aztec did not let those two early homers get to them as they put across six runs in the second. Leadoff hitter Ashlynn Bradley and left fielder Autumn Peterson got it started by getting on base thanks to a pair of errors by the host team.
With those two runners on, Rio Rancho pitcher Brianna Gallegos had a tough time locating her pitches as she walked two of the next three batters. And with the bases loaded, Bradley advanced home with a walk, cutting the deficit down to 2-1.
Next-at-bat, Sarrah Jones belted a three-run double in left field but she was tagged out trying to steal third for their second out of the inning.
Nonetheless, Aztec put some pressure on Rio Rancho with Adair earning the teams’ third walk in the frame. Catcher Kylie Brown and third baseman Jocelyn Ulrich both punched in a pair of RBI doubles before Rio Rancho closed out the inning, trailing 6-2.
“We just had to pick each other up,” Adair said. “That is the biggest thing about this team. It’s about body language and we just picked coach up.”