Steamboat Springs Every time Jeremy Haptonstall stepped to the plate during last weekend's Triple Crown slow-pitch softball tournament, he had only one thought on his mind.
"I was thinking about him every at bat," Haptonstall said of his friend Steve Ivers. "His memory was a huge part of our team's run and our success last weekend."
Ivers lost his 23-month battle with lung cancer in May. The 37-year-old was a longtime softball player who acted as president of his local softball association and coordinated Craig's adult softball league for several years.
Many of the players on the championship team were friends and former teammates of Ivers.
"His memory really motivated us," Steamboat player Joey Rind said. "We would chant 'Ivers on three' after every win. This team was definitely playing with a purpose."
Rind said that, although he did not know Ivers, he felt honored to be included. He said it was hard not to get caught up in the team's emotional ride through the weekend.
Driven by Ivers' memory, the members of the Yampa Valley SI 11 softball team set the standard in the men's E division.
The team swept all five games during the weekend, giving softball fans in Steamboat and Craig a reason to celebrate. It was the final appearance for Steamboat in the adult tournament, which has been a holiday fixture here for 26 years.
"All of those guys are my friends and former teammates," Rind said of the other players on the team. "We've all played with or against each other in the past, and I knew when we put this team together that it was going to be very competitive."
A few weeks before the tournament, Rind and Haptonstall, a former teammate from Craig, decided to reunite and form a tournament team. Rind and six players from the Mountain Resorts Steamboat Blue team joined a larger contingent from Craig to form what he thought was going to be an unstoppable squad.
He was right.
The Yampa Valley SI 11 team cruised through the bracket with easy wins against Doesn't Matter from Fort Collins (25-2), Pacific Framing/American Family Insurance of Windsor (15-7) and Cutler Nation of Greeley (22-7). In a much closer contest, the Yampa Valley team defeated Pueblo Viejo, 6-1, to earn a shot at Sunday's title game.
"We knew going in that we would be one of the teams to beat, but I was a little surprised that we dominated the way we did," Rind said.
On Sunday morning, with several members of Steve Ivers' family present, the Yampa Valley SI 11 team completed its championship run with a 9-1 victory against Big Stix from Evans.
The game was scoreless after three innings and tied at one run after four innings. But in the fifth, the Yampa Valley team came through with two runs before putting the game away in the bottom of the sixth inning with six more.
"Our bats kind of went to sleep in that game," Rind said, "but after the sixth inning we had a pretty good idea that we were going to win. The strength of this team has always been our defense, so we felt pretty confident once we had the lead."
Rind also said Triple Crown's decision to allow teams to use only wooden bats played in the local team's favor because of the squad's defensive strength.
"Our defense was solid, so we knew that if we could put a couple of good innings together that we would win," Haptonstall said.
After the final win of the weekend, the team presented the Most Valuable Player sweatshirt to Ivers' mother.
The Show, from Evans, won the men's D title after defeating Aurora's Endless in the championship game. Lady Twisters out of Colorado Springs topped the women's upper division, and Commerce City's Aftermath S.B.C. topped the women's lower division.
Coed titles went to the Twisters Softball Club of Colorado Springs in the mixed upper division, and MAC softball of Overland Park, Kan., won the mixed lower division.
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