Steamboat Springs They are self-proclaimed loudmouths determined to prove the state can produce softball players equal to or better than any churned out on the West Coast.
By beating teams from California in last year's Triple Crown Tournament, the Colorado Commotion created quite a stir en route to winning the 16-and-under National Championship.
"I spoke with some California teams," Triple Crown representative Bill Pilcher said. "They said that was a very good team."
Backed by a load of confidence and talent to boot, the girls have aged a year and moved up a division but expect similar results.
"Everyone wants to beat the Commotion," Mariah Piper said.
A few teams have been able to accomplish the feat. Pilcher said the Commotion aren't as dominant as last year but still rank among the top four teams in Colorado.
As 17-year-olds playing in the 18-and-under division, they expected to run into improved competition, but that was more welcomed than feared.
"This takes the pressure off us," Jessica Strickland said. "We don't feel like we have to perform."
Based out of Westminster, the Commotion is a group of essentially 12 All-Stars from eight high schools in Denver's suburban area. Some players drive up to an hour for practice, and it isn't a light game of catch. In most cases, preparation for spring and summer Triple Crown tournaments is taken more seriously than the high school fall season.
"For me it doesn't even compare," Tara Schumacher said. "Summer ball is so much more competitive."
With so much more on the line.
Eleven of the 12 girls on the team arrived in Steamboat early to take advantage of a pre-tournament camp put on by Triple Crown and numerous college coaches.
For girls, the high school season isn't the place to be noticed by roving recruiters. Potential collegiate players are plucked out of the select group that play summer ball.
"We came to get exposure and see the way they coach at the college level," Ashley Vaughn said.
Fastpitch softball isn't popular along the Western Slope, and except for several months during the summer, the sport is essentially nonexistent in Steamboat. But the young women of the Commotion look forward to their annual vacation of sorts to this mountain town.
"We love it here," they all agreed.
Interest in the sport is gradually increasing across Colorado, and the gap between the top teams is narrowing, but as gifted as the girls of the Commotion have become, they still feel like they play second fiddle to the boys of summer.
"I don't like the way guys act towards us and don't think softball's a sport," Melissa Backlund said. "You need to actually play it to respect it."
For example, a baseball pitcher hurling 95 mph is considered a hot major league commodity. That's equivalent to a 70 mph fastball in softball. The reaction time is lessened as the game centers more on strategy and speed.
"They are all about hitting home runs," Shannon Moon said. "We are all about manufacturing runs."
And wins. By ripping through last year's Triple Crown World Series, the Commotion secured an automatic bid for the 2002 event Aug. 8-12 in Steamboat, but they continue to play and win tuneup tournaments anyway.
The championship rounds for this weekend's tournament gets under way today.
"We just do our thing," Michelle Ramos said. "We love the sport and want to play the sport as best we can."