RIO RANCHO – No one could accuse the Rio Rancho Rams of being drama queens Saturday.
In fact, the Rams pretty much eliminated any drama in the first inning of the Kristin Griego Memorial Softball Tournament championship game at Cleveland High.
Rio Rancho jumped on previously unbeaten Aztec for 13 first-inning runs and coasted to a 16-1 victory. The game was stopped in the fourth inning because of softball’s 15-run mercy rule.
It was the latest chapter in what’s become an impressive season story for Rio Rancho (15-3). The Rams have won 11 straight games, including championship victories in the Albuquerque metro tournament and in the 30-team Griego Memorial.
Even longtime Rams coach Paul Kohman was a bit stunned by his team’s dominant performance in Saturday’s final.
“That was just amazing to watch,” he said of Rio Rancho’s 13-run, 11-hit first inning. “The kids executed everything we’ve been working on. It all came together – and that’s a very good Aztec team.”
The Tigers (15-1) may have been a bit fatigued after working 10 innings earlier in the day to edge Cleveland 6-4 in the semifinals. Rio Rancho advanced by defeating Oñate 8-4 in the semis.
But after stranding a McKinzie Reid at third base in the top of the first inning, Aztec suffered a quick knockout in the title game. Jessie Roane’s two-run single started a wild rally that included a two-run single by Bailee Bolen, a two-run homer by BreOnna Castañeda, and a two-run ground rule double by Molly Harder.
The Rams also stole three bases in the long first inning – part of another ridiculous trend for Kohman’s hyperaggressive squad.
“One of the goals they came up with this season was to break our team record for stolen bases,” Kohman said. “Two years ago we had 100, last year it was 122. This year we already have 136, which is pretty incredible.”
Many of the steals are not traditional swipes of second or third base. Whenever the Rams had multiple base runners Saturday, trailing runners simply rounded first after a walk or single and forced Aztec’s defense to throw them out. Only one runner was caught on the base paths for the Rams, who cashed in a slew of extra bases.
While the offense was rolling, Rio Rancho was equally efficient on the defensive side. Pitcher Victoria Lopez allowed just three Aztec hits and struck out four. She received a pair of outstanding supporting plays from Castañeda at shortstop.
Sarah Jones and Hailey Morris had back-to-back doubles in the third to plate the Tigers’ lone run.