Wanted: National champs

Triple Crown players in Steamboat for a big reason

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— Alex Gardner picked softball over his summers 18 years ago.

It's just the way it has played out. He wants to play for a national champion, and that means tournament after tournament to get to that point.

For the ride, he brought along 13 friends from Jefferson, Md., to Steamboat Springs for what he hopes will be their first national title at the Triple Crown Adult Slow Pitch Softball World Series in the Men's E Division.

"Everybody here has won a lot of tournaments," Gardner said. "No one here has won a national championship. We want to win; that's why we came. We want to have fun, but we want to win a national championship."

Rollins Construction has always finished in the top five or six in Steamboat. The team even got third once, but the 14 players that flew in from Maryland this year left behind their wives and children those that have them to focus on winning the Aug. 15-18 tournament.

They are so bent on accomplishing the feat that for every game they don't score 20 runs, 15 minutes is lost in celebratory bonding at a local drinking and dining establishment, as Gardner imposes a curfew.

"That's 30 minutes tonight fellas," he yelled toward his teammates, following their 19-9 victory over Steamboat's Boys of Summer. "You have to score 20 runs to win."

In most cases that holds true, but Rollins managed to squeeze by the Steamboat team with a comfortable 10-run win after posting two earlier victories Friday to wrap up Pool C play with a perfect 4-0 record.

Both Steamboat teams the Boys of Summer and the Pioneer Materials Dawgs failed to advance past pool play.

The Boys of Summer had fun, however, even in a losing effort.

"We were just happy to be in it," leadoff hitter Josh Reeves said. "It's definitely better competition (than the local league). This team we just played has finished no less than fifth here. We had a good time."

Though quality defense certainly helps in slowpitch softball, the timing and placement of hits can make all the difference a lesson the Boys of Summer learned the hard way Friday evening.

Training 4-7 after two innings, the Steamboat team failed to score in three of the next five innings, while Rollins increased its lead to as much as 12 before posting the 10-run final margin of victory.

"You really have to score every inning with as good as these guys are," Reeves said.

Coming off a 24-25 defeat at the hands of Streakin' of Riverside, Calif., Friday morning, the Boys of Summer bounced back quickly in the opening two innings Friday evening.

They scored one in the first and three in the second, but any lead they established remained short-lived, however, as Rollins pelted one softball after another up the middle, transforming the game into one of dodgeball as the pitcher Mills and the umpire repeatedly had to jump out of the way.

"That's the sign of a good-hitting team," Steamboat player Joey Rind said. "When they hit it up the middle."

With pool play complete in the men's, women's and coed divisions, the World Series moves to two days of bracket play today and Sunday.

Rollins Construction opens at 10:30 a.m. at the Oak Creek upper field today, completing their tour of Routt and Moffat counties.

The finals in each division will be on Sunday at Steamboat area fields, bringing the 2002 season of Triple Crown to a conclusion in Steamboat.

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