Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs American Legion baseball team found out Wednesday night that you can't bookend two bad innings around otherwise solid play and win.
Playing a doubleheader against Eagle Valley, Steamboat let an eight-run second inning produce a 12-5 loss in the first game, before three unearned runs in the last inning of the second game led to an 11-10 loss.
"The bottom line is we're learning," Steamboat manager Dave Roy said. "We're getting exposed to some situations that will make us better. That's what summer ball is all about."
It also didn't help that in the first game, Eagle Valley threw a pitcher who's among the class of the Western Slope.
Senior-to-be Jack Barbella twirled a gem.
Barbella threw a complete game six-hitter. He gave up five runs, three of which were earned, and struck out 14.
That second inning did Steamboat in. Eagle Valley put together seven hits, drew three walks and pushed eight runs across to take an early lead.
Steamboat pushed two runs across in the third and another in the fourth on a solo shot by Matt Watwood. Eagle Valley scored four more in the fifth to take a 12-3 lead. In the seventh, Watwood had a two-run double to cut the lead to 12-5 before Barbella finished the game with a strikeout.
In the second game, Steamboat jumped out to an 8-5 lead in the fifth before Eagle Valley tied it in the bottom half of the inning.
Steamboat took a 10-8 lead into the seventh, but three errors gave way to three unearned runs and an Eagle Valley win.
"The young guys are getting there," said Watwood, who finished the doubleheader with two home runs and seven RBIs. "The more they play the better they get. It's just going to take some reps."
It wasn't all bad news for Steamboat. In the fourth inning of the second game, incoming freshman Justin Ditter completed an unassisted triple play. Ditter, playing shortstop, caught a soft liner, touched second and then tagged the runner going from first to second.
"When he hit it, I couldn't see it because the sun was in my eyes," Ditter said. "When I caught it, I knew the guy had stolen because I yelled it so I touched the bag. Then I tagged the guy coming from first. For a while it didn't feel like anything. Now it feels pretty good."
And pretty improbable. According to Major League Baseball, there have been 659 triple plays in the history of professional baseball. Of those 659, only 14 have been unassisted. The last one came in 2008, when Cleveland Indians second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera did exactly what Ritter did.
The Steamboat Legion team next plays a doubleheader on Sunday at Summit. There is potential for a home doubleheader on July 5, but Roy was still waiting to hear from some teams.