Knights crowned fastpitch champs

Local men's softball team claims Division A title at world qualifying tournament in Colorado Springs

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The Western Slope Knights fastpitch softball team went 5-1 last weekend en rout to winning the Shacks Invitational tournament in Colorado Springs.

"We played really well," Steamboat Springs captain and player Loren Hochhalter said. "We didn't hit that well in the first championship game, but we were able to come back and win the 'if' game."

The 16-team tournament was a double elimination format. The Knights went 3-0 on the first day of play on July 8. The team also won a hard-fought, extra innings game on July 9 to advance to the A Division championship contest against the only other undefeated team in the tournament Jim's Wings out of Fort Collins.

Steamboat won the contest 3-2 in nine innings.

The two teams met again in the championship game. This time the Fort Collins team took the upper hand, winning in a 2-0 game.

"It was the only time all weekend that we just couldn't hit the ball," Hochhalter said. "Our defense was pretty good, but it's hard to win when you can't score any runs.

Since the Steamboat-based team was undefeated going into the first game, a second championship game or "if" game had to be played to determine who would win the title.

This time, the local hitters didn't have any problem striking the ball en route to a 8-1 title game victory.

The local fastpitch team is now 21-13 for the season after winning the world qualifying tournament. The team was already qualified for the biggest fastpitch tournament of the season the Worlds which will be held in Fargo, N.D., Aug. 22-26. The Steamboat team placed seventh at that tournament last year and that was good enough to get an invitation back to the event this year.

Teams from Canada, Mexico and the United States play for the biggest title in the county at Worlds.

In addition to Hochhalter, other local players on the team were Julian Armstrong, Chance Sampsel, Mike DeZeeuw and Mike Bowers.

The remaining players on the team come from a variety of places including several other Western Slope communities.

The Knights travel almost every weekend to fastpitch softball tournaments, however, the squad is looking forward to staying at home on July 22-23 for the 14th annual Steamboat Invitational Fastpitch Softball Tournament. That event will be at Howelsen Hill and is expected to draw around 16 teams.

To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@amigo.net

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