On Saturday, members of Steamboat Springs' oldest Triple Crown baseball team were exposed to the difference between being on a 14-and-younger team and actually being 14.
Composed primarily of 13-year-olds and even a 12-year-old, Steamboat failed to advance out of pool play in this weekend's Triple Crown Division 2 Mountain Magic Tournament. That, however, didn't stop co-coach Steve Watwood from looking at the positives.
"This is great experience for them," he said, standing behind a dugout full of dejected players after an 11-2 loss to Morrison's West Jeff Black Diamonds. "This team came together last Thursday. There are three or four who haven't been on a tournament team before."
Defensively, Steamboat played well, making plays in the infield and trying its best to track down fly balls through the wind gusts at Craig's Woodbury Park.
Offensively, the Sailors struggled to string together walks and hits as Morrison's Rob Hollis threw a complete game two-hitter.
One of Steamboat's hits came off the bat of Cody Harris, who reached across the plate and took the Hollis offering to the opposite field for a triple in the top of the fourth inning. He scored on a throwing error at home plate. Leadoff hitter Nate Hill scored Steamboat's other run in the top of the first.
There may have been a reason for Steamboat's of----fensive struggles, however. The players on this year's 14-and-younger team come from the local league. In Division 2 Triple Crown games, the mound is 54 feet from home plate. In Steamboat's league for players that age, the mound is 10 feet farther back. The ball is traveling the same speed in both leagues, so the adjustment they had to make this weekend is obvious.
The game was close until the bottom of the fourth, when the Black Diamonds turned a 5-2 lead into an 11-2 lead. Hollis retired the next six Steamboat batters he faced.
Watwood said the same Steamboat team will be playing in the Triple Crown Division 3 tournament June 24 to 26. This is the first year for Division 3, which was created for teams looking for more experience in a fun, tournament setting.
Steamboat's 14-and-younger team will be one of three Steamboat teams taking part in next week's tournament. An 11-and-younger team and a 12-and-younger team also will be playing.
The Northwest Colorado Lynx, a 12-and-under area team, were the only Yampa Valley team to advance to today's championship round.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org