Payton McElhinney works on his base-running skills at the field at Steamboat Springs Middle School on Wednesday evening during a practice for the 11-and-under baseball team from Steamboat Springs that will play in this weekend’s Triple Crown baseball tournament.

Photo by John F. Russell

Payton McElhinney works on his base-running skills at the field at Steamboat Springs Middle School on Wednesday evening during a practice for the 11-and-under baseball team from Steamboat Springs that will play in this weekend’s Triple Crown baseball tournament.

Steamboat's 11-and-younger team preps for Triple Crown

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— The popping of hand to leather and the ping of ball to aluminum bat.

Is there a better sign that summer is here?

For a dozen or so players on the 11-and-younger Steamboat Storm baseball team, there certainly isn’t.

On a picturesque Wednesday afternoon those dozen or so sugar-upped 11-year-olds were taking baseball serious.

“They’re starting to take it seriously,” said coach Pat McElhiney, who, along with Chauncey Cooke and David Reese, has coached the team this year. “They know it’s coming.”

It is another crack at a Triple Crown Mountain Magic baseball tournament. The team went 0-4 last weekend in one, but the losses include one by one run and two by two runs.

“I think we will do really well in this and we should have done really well in the last one,” McElhiney said. “We could have won three games out of that and put us in that championship bracket. This week it’s less teams.”

The team plays at 8 and 10 a.m. Friday at Klumker Fields at Howelsen Hill and at 2:15 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Ski Town Fields.

In addition, the team should have a good chance this weekend to advance to Sunday’s championship round. Last weekend, the tournament featured higher caliber teams from across the state.

Considering how close the Storm well to advancing to the championship round, this weekend should be much better.

“Last weekend we didn’t play too well, but this weekend instead of a DII and I tournament we’re in a DIII tournament,” outfielder Davis Petersen said. “I have high expectations as long as we stay in the game and hit the ball hard. You know, just the basics.”

Ah, just the basics. Wednesday during a two-hour practice it was obvious the team knew the basics and looked like an actual ball club. It hasn’t been easy. Baseball in Steamboat never is.

But for the dozen or so 11-year-olds, this is the best part of summer. The team has played in 16 games this season with success against other teams on the Western Slope, but hasn’t quite bridged the gap to the Front Range.

This weekend, however, they hope to change that.

“If we kept our head up we would have won (last weekend’s) tournament,” player Cale Reistad said. “If we keep our head in the game we can definitely win.”

— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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