Steamboat Springs After winning the Junior League District 3 Finals, the Steamboat squad of 13- and 14-year-old Routt County baseball all-stars seemed poised to make a run at last weekend's state championship tournament in Thornton.
While Steamboat lost both its games Saturday and Sunday, eliminating the team from contention, coach Steve Watwood thought the competitive experience of stepping up to elite play was invaluable as half of his tournament squad heads into high school this fall.
"It moves them all up a notch," Watwood said. "It helped them tremendously with their confidence, playing at that level with teams with a lot more experience and size, drawing from a much bigger pool. They played with their heads up and their hearts in it."
Watwood described Saturday's game against District 2 champion Arapahoe as a "pitching duel," with Cody Miles and Alex Estes keeping the game even at five runs apiece until the seventh inning when Arapahoe went on a hitting streak to secure a 13-5 win.
"That was a winnable game," Watwood said. "We just didn't get the bounces."
Steamboat struggled to out-hit its opponents in Sunday's game against Division 5 champion Perl Mack, which still had many players from its 2005 Junior League state champion team. Perl Mack beat Steamboat, 18-3.
The Steamboat U-14 coaches were pleased with the team's effort. So was Steamboat Springs High School baseball coach Dave Roy.
Roy said he thought that the more elite competition little leaguers can be exposed to, the better they'll fare at the varsity level.
Roy said, "Establishing a winning attitude is a huge part of baseball and it bodes well for the future."