Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs High School softball team begins postseason play today against Montezuma-Cortez.
The district tournament in Gypsum coincides with Steamboat's homecoming festivities, so the Sailors (2-16 overall) voted on whether they should travel to play in the two-day tournament that determines state qualifiers.
Nine players -- the minimum needed to play a softball game -- voted to extend the season for as long as possible.
"It was a difficult decision to make," Sailors coach Donna Ryan said. "I feel like we have a fairly decent shot at this game."
The winner of today's game advances to Saturday play. Cortez is the top team from the Southeastern League, but the Panthers, like the Sailors, had difficulty hanging with teams from Delta and Rifle, giving Ryan reason to believe Steamboat and Cortez could be an even matchup.
Senior Kirsten Ryan will pitch, and senior Kathleen Lyon will catch. Their experience at those positions gives the Sailors their best chance to win.
During the regular season, Steamboat defeated Basalt and Cedaredge, but the team has only three seniors. Those seniors -- Lyon, Ryan and shortstop Anya Salzgeber -- are three of the best players on the team.
"Anya really came through for us with some big key hits," Donna Ryan said. "That was really exciting to see."
But Ryan also had a lot to say about other Sailors, many of whom had little or no softball experience before the 2005 season began. Last year was Steamboat's first as a softball program, and the Sailors played an independent schedule that consisted mostly of games against junior varsity opponents.
"The girls definitely im----proved," Ryan said. "This summer, maybe even this fall, if we can get nice weather, we are going to try and run some clinics. We've had a lot of kids show interest."
Donna Ryan said she has eight "pretty dedicated players" she expects back next season. They are Christie Fielding, Mataya Flaharty, Patricia Henderson, Reb--ekah Hilterbrand, Darcy Hornstein, Priska Sorensen, Leigh Thielen and Melissa Walsh.
"Our only freshman was Darcy Hornstein, who played outfield and was a good slugger for us," Ryan said. "As far as sluggers, Kirsten, Kathleen and Anya had the highest percentage of extra-base hits, so it's nice to have a freshman showing that quality."
Thielen and Fielding are pitchers to replace Kirsten Ryan. Flaharty got some experience catching to help replace Lyon. The remaining players are infielders or outfielders.
Ryan hopes to get the girls together for summer tournaments. Last year, the team planned to play in a Triple Crown tournament, but the seeding games were rained out. A Breckenridge tournament was snowed out.