Triple Crown's Fourth of July Mountain Magic adult slow-pitch softball tournament is a Steamboat holiday tradition. Teams from throughout the state -- and, this year, the western half of the country -- gather in Hayden, Craig and Steamboat, to not only play softball, but also to celebrate the extended weekend with family and friends.
Don't be fooled, however, by the grills, coolers and strollers accessorizing the out-of-town teams. Most are here to compete.
Wins Inc. started its tournament with a 15-5 victory against B&K Distributing in the Men's E division Friday morning. Team member Eric Cardenas said it was the first game this particular group of men had played together.
Like players with B&K Distributing, the members of Wins Inc. participate in their local adult leagues, though many agree that Triple Crown tournaments are more competitive than community leagues.
The game's 8 a.m. start wasn't conducive to either team opening up well, particularly with the bats, but the teams stayed close until the top of the third, when Wins Inc. scored 11 runs off 10 hits with three Steamboat errors.
It was more than enough cushion for the Colorado Springs-based team decked out in University of Texas colors.
Wins Inc. went up 1-0 in the top of the first and added three more in the second, but Steamboat answered with four runs in the bottom of the second. Tony Lucas led off with a single, and Paul Knowles followed with a double. Kenny Loose reached on an error but drove in two runs.
He came around to score when Ray Chamberlain's long drive to right centerfield was misplayed. Chamberlain scored on Bobby Yeager's single.
Minutes after it appeared Steamboat had found its offense, Colorado Springs responded with 11 runs, highlighted by seven singles. Finding the holes in the outfield is the best way to play slow-pitch softball, Cardenas said.
Line drives up the middle can't be stopped.
"They got frustrated and started kicking it around," he said.
In the other dugout, B&K Distributing had difficulty stringing together solid hits against opposing pitcher Jay Bonac.
"He was keeping it high, which makes for more pop-ups," Lucas said. "Pitching is a lot more important than people realize."
In Triple Crown, there is no mat to hit. A ball or strike is the umpire's call, but the strike zone is knees to shoulders and the limit on the arc is 12 feet.
"But we try to push it," said Lucas, who started on the mound for Steamboat.
Friday was the first tournament game of the year for B&K Distributing. Most of the players know each other through the local leagues, but early morning Triple Crown games are a little different from late-night league games at Howelsen Hill.
Still, the emphasis for everyone -- locals and visitors -- was having fun.
With the loss, Steamboat doesn't play again until 9:10 a.m. today at Loudy-Simpson Park in Craig.