Steamboat Springs If you thought this weekend's Triple Crown slow-pitch softball tournament was a bunch of glorified beer league games, you were sadly mistaken.
Yes, some are here on vacation, and yes, some have their gloves in one hand and a cold one in the other, but most came to Steamboat Springs to win, including the local Pioneer Materials Dawgs.
With two wins on Saturday, the Dawgs improved to 4-0 in the tournament and advanced another step closer to winning the entire Class E section of the bracket with a 10-9 thriller over Greenfeet Landscaping from Westminster on Vanatta at Howelsen Saturday night.
Leading 8-3 heading into the top of the sixth, Pioneer allowed Greenfeet to jump back into the lead, surrendering six runs in the inning. However, the Dawgs came back in their half of the sixth and leapfrogged ahead, 10-9, putting pressure back on their opponent.
In the bottom of the sixth, pitcher Tony Lucas and third basemen Paul Knowles both reached base, and in true softball fashion, the batters behind them managed to push the men across home with sacrifice hits placed perfectly to the right side.
And outfielder Ray Valente said the team isn't playing at its best.
"We're playing well," he said. "But we're making errors that are hurting us, and we're not all hitting at the right time. We expected to do well. We've all been playing together or against each other for a while."
Every member of the Pioneer team participates in the local adult softball league held on Monday nights at Howelsen. Most are on the same team, but a few were added to plug holes at several positions. Steamboat is granted an automatic entrant in the World Series held here in August, but Hicks said the Dawgs want to prove it isn't just a gracious gesture.
"We're here to compete," he said.
For the most part, Steamboat has had relatively little success in any Triple Crown event, be it adult softball or boys baseball. At a recent tournament in Craig, the Dawgs finished third, so they feel as if it's their duty to serve as the poster boys for the supporters of the tournament.
"With a local team doing so well," Hicks said. "Right now we are proving Triple Crown has a place here."
And reinforcing why adult slow-pitch softball is a true Colorado pastime based on the thousands of participants in town this weekend.
"Anybody can do it," Hicks said. "There's a level for everybody. It's good when you get older and can't play baseball anymore."
It's apparent, based on the emotions flying on the field Saturday night, the competitive intensity many played with as youngsters has not left even in older age. Steamboat's league games have varying degrees of heated play, but Triple Crown brings a load of different expectations. Play is elevated because the talent is better.
"They are just more complete teams (in Triple Crown)," Hicks said. "There just aren't very many weak players."
And compared to Monday evenings at Howelsen Hill, it's hard to find coolers stock full of much but water in the dugouts, particularly on the Pioneer squad. Hicks said the focus has been on winning games. The celebration can come at the end.
The team had a few fist pumps and jumps following Saturday evening's win, but attention turned to today's game at 9:10 a.m. on Vanatta against Colorado Rocky's Auto from Castle Rock. Should the Dawgs win, they will play at 12:25 p.m. on Adams at Howelsen. If they lose, they will play at the same time on Vanatta.