Steamboat Springs Doug Wood has spent the past week trying to convince the 10 players on his 14-and-younger Little League baseball team that Sunday night's contest against West Texas is just another ball game.
"That's what I keep telling them," Wood said. "All we need to do is keep playing the way we've been playing. If we can avoid making mistakes and keep hitting the ball, I know we can play with any team."
But West Texas isn't just another team, and this isn't just another game.
The Steamboat Springs team earned the chance to play in this year's Southwestern Regional after winning its district and the state Little League tournaments.
It is a first in Steamboat Springs, and this is the only local team to advance to the Little League Baseball Association's Southwest Regional -- the tournament is the final hurdle en route to the Little League World Series.
Needless to say, the players are pretty excited about just getting to play in the tournament, In addition to West Texas, the local sluggers are scheduled to play teams from New Mexico (10 a.m. Monday), and Mississippi (8 p.m. Tuesday).
"I expect to play a lot of other teams just like us," player Nick Grant said. "They are all state champions just like us."
There will be eight teams from across the country in the tournament, which will be played at the Grand Mesa Fields in Grand Junction. The teams are divided into two pools. The top two teams from each pool will advance to the semifinal games Wednesday, and the winners will advance to the championship contest Thursday.
The winner of this tournament will travel to Taylor, Mich., for a chance to play in the World Series, which is scheduled for Aug. 15 to 21.
The winners from all of Little League's five regions in the United States, plus teams from Latin America, Canada, Europe and Asia Pacific will play in the World Series. Unlike the 12-and-younger division this age group is not televised.
Last year a team from Sugar Land, Texas, represented the Southwestern region. The team went 2-2 at the World Series and did not advance to the finals.
Lisa Burke, district administrator for District 3 in Colorado, said she couldn't remember the last time a team from Colorado has won the Southwestern Regional.
"It's been a long, long time," Burke said. "I know some teams from the Colorado Springs area have done it in the past, but it's been a while."
Grant and his teammates realize just how big the regional tournament can be, but he said once the teams walk onto the field in Grand Junction, it's going to be just another day of baseball.
"I don't know why we've been so successful this season," Grant said. "Maybe because we've got a bunch of players with experience, we've got great coaches and we have great practices."
Players traveling to Grand Junction for the event will include Jordan Williams, Michael Lyon, Jake Stanford, Nick Grant, Elliot Girard, Alex Wood, Taylor Anderson, Jeff Truslow, Levi Gonzales and Michael Lamb, who was just added to the roster.
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