This could easily have been the District 1-5A tournament — if there were such a thing — for the Rio Rancho High School softball team.
The Rams dispatched Cibola on Thursday in the quarterfinals. Rio Rancho upset No. 1 seed Volcano Vista in Friday’s semifinals.
In the championship game of the Albuquerque Metro Championship, Rio Rancho overcame a four-run deficit at rival Cleveland, and the fourth-seeded Rams capped off a tremendous week with its fourth win in four days. The last one was a 7-5 victory over the No. 2-seeded Storm on Saturday morning.
“Cibola and then Volcano and these guys … you can never let up,” Rio Rancho coach Paul Kohman said. “Our district is so tough, my goodness.”
The Rams scored seven unanswered runs after falling behind 4-0 after two innings.
“I think we just had to calm ourselves down, and do what we do at practice and just keep doing us,” said Rams senior catcher Kionna King.
Rio Rancho had been toughened up the previous week, losing five games in a row at an elite tournament in Arizona.
“Last week we got to play some very quality teams, a few of the best in the country, and our kids came back 0-5,” Kohman said. “I’m sure they felt pretty bad about it, but that’s why we go there … thank God it paid off this week.”
King was one of the major reasons the Rams left the Shockyards with the large Metro trophy. She was on a heater at the plate the entire week, hitting a home run in each of the Rams’ four victories.
Her blast on Saturday was unquestionably the most important swing of the final, with the Rams winning their fourth Metro title. RRHS also won it in 2015, ’15 and ’19.
Down 4-1 with two outs and two on in the top of the fifth, King had two strikes on her when she smoked a pitch over the fence in right-center for a three-run homer.
That shifted the momentum and energy from one dugout to the other, even if the game was only tied 4-4 at that point.
“We needed that,” Kohman said.
Rio Rancho (6-5) scored three more runs in the top of the sixth for a 7-4 lead. Freshman Marissa Valdez’s RBI single to right put the Rams ahead for the first time. A fielder’s choice scored a run, and a throwing error gave Rio Rancho a three-run cushion.
“(After my home run), I was like, let’s build off of this,” King said. “Everyone did their job and we did the little things right as a team.”
Cleveland (10-3) tallied the game’s first four runs. Alivia Hughes sliced a two-RBI single down the right-field line, part of a three-run first inning for the Storm. A Rio Rancho throwing error scored a run for Cleveland in the second.
Although the Rams had squandered a couple of solid scoring chances over the first four innings, and for all the balls they squared up and hit hard that led to outs, it seemed only a matter of time before the Rams put up a crooked number.
Then King’s swing accomplished exactly that.
“I’ve said this since day one, you’ve got to continue to put runs on Rio Rancho, because they can swing the bats,” Cleveland coach Angel Castillo said. “Now (my team) is gonna believe me when I say that.”
Rio Rancho starter, senior Mia Flores, got better as the game went on and she went the distance to earn the victory.