Little Leaguers play it close


Sean Seams didn't even make it to first base before he and his teammates began to celebrate.

With his one-out hit up the middle, Seams drove in John Wharton from third, giving the Steamboat Springs' 11-and-under team an 11-10 win against Summit in the opening round of the Little League District Tournament.

It was Seams' first game-winning hit.

"It was so cool," the first baseman said. "Coach told me to just poke the ball through if you can."

For baseball enthusiasts, Emerald Park was the place to be Saturday afternoon. For nearly two hours, three different local teams were playing, giving spectators a chance to look at the present and future of Steamboat baseball.

In addition to the 11-and-under district team, the Steamboat Springs High School American Legion team and Steamboat's 12-and-under district team were playing at Emerald Park. All three games came down to the last at bat.

After Steamboat pitcher Ben Williams, who lives in Hayden, and Grand County's Mitch Franek pitched six innings of near flawless baseball, Grand County managed to push two runs across the plate in the bottom of the seventh to get the 3-2 win in the 12-and-under division.

Williams struck out 13 in six innings of work, while Franek and his fastball fanned 11 Steamboat batters.

Steamboat scored its first run in the top of the third when Blayne Conroy scored on a double steal. Christopher Holmquist was thrown out at second, but Conroy alertly took off for home when he saw the ball go through the infield.

Grand County tied the game in the bottom of the fourth.

Franek struck out the side in the top of the fifth. Williams did the same in the bottom of the fifth.

Grand County's Orel Chavez led off with a single in the bottom of the sixth, but Williams struck out the next three to leave Chavez stranded at first.

Steamboat's Carson Becker, who had two hits for Steamboat, got aboard in the top of the seventh and advanced to second on Grant McCannon's bunt single and went to third on a wild pitch. He scored when the third strike to John Burrow got away from Grand County's catcher.

Becker relieved Williams in the bottom of the seventh and got Grand County's first batter to strike out, but Grand County eventually loaded the bases, bringing Chavez up to bat with the winning run at third.

With the infield drawn in to get the out at home, Chavez drove the ball into right centerfield, scoring pinch runner Brandon Strang.

Like Seams, Chavez had never had a game-winning hit until Saturday.

"The pitch was going right through the middle of the plate and I knew I had to hit that," Chavez said.

The Little League district tournaments are double elimination, so Steamboat's 12-and-under team is not done. It plays again at 9 a.m. on Monday. The Little League district tournaments run through Wednesday, and the Steamboat teams are vying for a chance to advance to regional play.

"I told them we get to play more games this way," said Steamboat's 12-and-under coach Mike McCannon.

Across the way, Steamboat's American Legion team fell, 11-10, to a group from Ponderosa High School in the first game of a doubleheader.

Trailing by two runs, Steamboat loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh, but only got one across when the game ended on a double play.

To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208

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