Steamboat baseball team strong in debut

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Hondo Anderson could have pitched more if he had to.

But on Saturday, the lefthander's four innings of work allowed the Steamboat Springs 12-and-under team to hold on and defeat the Boulder Treehuggers, 8-4, in the Triple Crown Mountain Magic Division 3 tournament.

"It feels pretty good," And--erson said, moving his left arm in a circle. "I'm usually pitching about three innings. I was kind of lucky to be the hero."

"Hero" was a word coach Mike McCannon was throwing out at his players during Saturday's opening game. And after the game, he praised every player on the roster for contributing to the win.

In addition to the two Steamboat Springs Sailors teams playing in this weekend's Triple Crown tournaments, three other teams with Northwest Colorado ties are involved. All three picked up at least one win in Saturday's opening day of pool play. One week after winning the Triple Crown Mountain Magic Division 2 tournament, the Northwest Colorado Lynx are playing in Division 1 with mixed results. The Lynx went 1-2 on Saturday but still are alive in pool play. They play at 8 a.m. today against the Lakewood Tigers. That game is at the Ski Town South field by the tennis bubble. Should they finish first or second, the Lynx will qualify for the Triple Crown Division 1 World Series. They already have qualified for the Division 2 World Series. The Colorado Cutthroats and the Tri-County Trojans are playing in the Triple Crown Mountain Magic Division 3 tournament this weekend. The Cutthroats went 1-1 on Saturday and face Steamboat's 11-and-under team at 10 a.m. today at the Ski Town North field. The Tri-County Trojans are playing in the 14-and-under Division 3 bracket and went 1-1 on Saturday, as well. Their division is a combined 13 and 14 division with crossover pool play taking place this morning at Howelsen Hill. Up-to-date information and scores are available at the Triple Crown tables at Howelsen Hill. All three teams are based out of Craig but include players from Steamboat, Hayden and Meeker. -- Pilot & Today staff

Steamboat's 12-and-under team literally was put together Saturday morning. The group plays in the local Little League, but several rules are different between Little League and Triple Crown.

In Triple Crown, players are allowed to steal and can run on dropped third strikes. The bases are farther apart, and the mound is farther from home. On Saturday, McCannon gathered everyone for an early practice session to discuss the changes.

"I talked to them about leading off and talked to the pitchers about holding runners on," McCannon said. "That's huge, but I missed bunt coverage. In our league, we don't bunt. We don't know how to defend it."

That is one benefit the Steam--boat players will gain by playing in this weekend's Triple Crown tournament. For one, they didn't have to travel. In addition, they will have the chance to learn more about base running, pitching from the stretch and fielding a variety of hits in different game situations.

For those planning to continue with baseball, all three are essential.

Despite Steamboat's learning on the run -- literally -- the Sailors hit, defended and pitched well enough to win.

Alex Estes threw the opening two innings for Steamboat, striking out two. He also scored Steamboat's first run in the top of the first after walking and stealing second and third bases. He crossed home on a balk.

Boulder took the lead in the bottom of the second, but Steamboat tied it up in the top of the third when Ryan Hogrefe came around to score. He led off with a single and advanced to second on an error and to third on a wild pitch. Anderson got the RBI when he reached first on an error.

Steamboat added two in the fifth to pull ahead by three, but Boulder answered with two more runs to close to within 5-4.

Knowing it was the final inning and they wouldn't get the last at bat, the Sailors distanced themselves in the top of the sixth.

John Burrow was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Carson Becker followed with a single. Burrow scored on a wild pitch, and Becker stole home. Christopher Holmquist walked to keep the inning alive and later scored on Justin Anderson's RBI-single.

"I told them to be aggressive at the plate," McCannon said.

Every hitter in Steamboat's lineup went up swinging, and putting the ball in play at the Division 3 level sometimes is all it takes to reach base.

Anderson said he wasn't sure how the team would fare in the Triple Crown tournament because it was new to the rules and each other, but McCannon said he hoped the win went a long way in proving Steamboat could be competitive at the new Division 3 level.

Steamboat continues pool play with a 10 a.m. game today against the DC Rockers from Castle Rock at Klumker Field.

The consolation game is at 2 p.m., and the championship is at 4 p.m.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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