Sailors cruise to championship

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— Before last weekend, Steam--boat Springs had never produced a youth baseball team that won a Triple Crown tournament title.

Maybe that's because the 12 members of the Steamboat Sailors 9-and-under team had never played together in a Triple Crown event.

The first time the Steamboat team played together on the same field was during its opening game Friday, but by the end of the weekend, the players had won the Division 3 crown.

"We pulled these players together about a week and a half before the tournament," assistant coach Mike McCannon said. "We had a couple of practices before the tournament, but the opening game was the first time we got all the players on the field at the same time."

It didn't take long for the group of all-stars to start playing like a team.

After beating the Arvada Blue Sox, 13-5, on Friday afternoon in Oak Creek, McCannon was approached by the Blue Sox coach. The coach casually asked how many games the Steamboat team had played this season.

"I said one, and his eyes almost popped out of his head," McCannon said.

The Steamboat team, made up of players recruited from local Little League teams, played in a three-team division against the Blue Sox from Arvada and the Patriots Scarlet from Littleton. The teams played each other twice in a round robin format. The team with the best record was declared the champion.

This year, the Division 3 title came down to a battle between the Sailors and the Patriots.

Steamboat lost to the Patriots, 8-5, in the tournament's second game. But the boys rebounded Saturday with an 8-5 win against the same Patriots team. The local players wrapped up the tournament with their best hitting performance of the weekend against the Blue Sox on Sunday afternoon. Steamboat won the game, 20-7, and secured the title with a 3-1 record. The Patriots were second at 2-2, and the Blue Sox finished 1-3.

McCannon and fellow coaches Tim Bishop and Frank Lawhead jumped at the chance to enter the Triple Crown Tournament.

"I really wanted to coach this team because of my love of baseball," Bishop said. "The goal really wasn't to win but to give our players an experience bigger than the Steamboat Springs Little League."

The coaches recruited players Spencer Peterson, Koby Bishop, Jesse Pugh, Camden Lawhead, Brandon Martin, Quinn Cain, Drew Williamson, Jesse Laughlin, Mitch McCannon, Andrew Firestone and Ryan Hicks from Steamboat. Oak Creek's Ryan Jeep, who plays in the Steamboat Little League, was the only player from outside of Steamboat.

"We didn't really know what to expect in the tournament," Bishop said. "But it turned out to be a great experience and one I hope will keep these kids excited about baseball."

The Steamboat Sailors follow in the footsteps of the Northwest Colorado Lynx, a team made up of players from Steamboat, Hayden and Craig, which won Triple Crown titles in the Division 2 bracket a few years ago.

-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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