Local softball fans will have a chance to root on two local teams in this weekend's Mountain Invitational fastpitch tournament, being held at Howelsen Hill.
The tournament, which is now in its 14th year in Steamboat Springs, should draw the top fastpitch softball teams from around the state and region. Two of those teams will come from here in Steamboat.
"This is a big, big tournament for us," local manager Loren Hochhalter said. "Maybe it isn't the most important tournament for us this year but we want to play well in our own backyard."
Hochhalter is the team captain for the Western Slope Knights. The team will play in the upper division of this weekend's tournament and had already qualified for the state championships, which will be played in Denver in August, and the World Championships, which will take place in Fargo, N.D., in August as well.
"This tournament (the Steamboat event) will be the last tune up before the state championships," Hochhalter said. "I expect a lot of top teams to be in town hoping to get an edge."
The other local softball team will be led by long-time fastpitch supporter Joe Bender. The team, which doesn't travel as much as Hochhalter's group, will play in the lower division and has a goal of improving on last year's 0-3 showing.
Bender's squad was dominated by two of the teams it faced last year. Bender has hopes of making a better tournament showing in 2000.
"Our goal is to improve on our results from last year,"Bender said. "It shouldn't be too hard."
Bender's team will play games at 9:20 a.m. Saturday against the Dragons from Denver on Klumker and 4:20 p.m. against Baseline Liquor from Boulder on Vanatta. On Sunday, the local squad will take on Sipes Concrete out of Denver at 8 a.m. on Klumker.
Hochhalter's team will also play on both Saturday and Sunday. The Knights will face the Stingers at noon Saturday on Vanatta. The local squad will also play Woodley's of Boulder at 8:20 p.m. on Saturday. The Knights are scheduled to play Buds of Englewood at noon on Sunday in its final pool play game.
There will be 20 teams in two different divisions in this weekend's tournament. The tournament is sanctioned by the North American Fastpitch Softball Association. A team from Atlanta, as well as teams from Wyoming and Colorado will play in the tournament.
The games will be played on Vanatta and Klumker fields all day Saturday and Sunday. Teams will play in a pool play format on Saturday. The winners of that round will then advance to a single-elimination championship bracket Sunday. The championship games in both divisions will take place late Sunday afternoon.
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail him at email@example.com