Steamboat Springs The players on Steamboat’s 13- to 15-year-old Little League team won’t remember the long drive to Aurora for last week’s state tournament or the two disappointing losses.
What the players will remember is the thrilling 16-15 win against Grand Mesa in the second round that kept the team’s title hopes alive and gave it one more game at the state tournament.
“It was pretty exciting,” coach Eric Simonsen said Tuesday. “We had been down for most of the game but took the lead late.”
Grand Mesa tied the game in the top of the last inning, but Steamboat refused to let the game slip away. Steamboat’s Bryce Sullivan got on base with a single in the bottom of the seventh inning and then stole second. Teammate Channing Conner then hit a walk-off single to win the game.
“For us, just winning was huge,” Simonsen said. “Normally, we are two games and done. We usually don’t get a third game at state.”
Steamboat finished the tournament 1-2. The team lost its opener, 11-0, against High Plains Little League out of Colorado Springs and fell, 11-1, to Shaw Heights out of Westminster.
“This was a big accomplishment for these players,” Simonsen said. “I think the players who will be back are already excited for next year.”
11- and 12-year-olds
After winning the district tournament earlier this month, Steamboat’s 11- and 12-year-old Little League All-Stars headed to Grand Junction last week knowing it was going to be a learning experience.
“I knew this was going to be a huge task for our team,” coach Chauncey Cooke said. “This was a young team.”
Steamboat faced a much more experienced Monument team in its first game of the tournament. Whereas that team has been playing together since the kids were 9, Steamboat’s team was formed just three weeks ago and is a collection of the top 11- and 12-year-old players from the local Little League teams.
The Steamboat kids beat Grand County twice July 7 in the district tournament to advance to state. But things didn’t go as planned for the Steamboat team at the state tournament. Steamboat lost the opener to Monument, 19-0, and then was beaten by South Boulder, 10-0, in the second game.
“This is a big deal as only 200 teams in the country made it to the final four of their state out of hundreds of thousands of Little League teams,” Cooke said. “This was a huge task for our players, and I think we exceeded our expectations. This is something for our team to build upon next year.”
9- and 10-year-olds
In the youngest division, local Little League coach Dave Gedeon knew his team would face challenges from South Boulder and Academy in last weekend’s 9- and 10-year-old state tournament at Emerald Field in Steamboat Springs.
But by the end of the weekend, Gedeon said he couldn’t be more proud of how his players fared against the best the state has to offer.
“It was an amazingly great experience,” Gedeon said. “It was great for the kids just to get to that point.”
Steamboat lost its opening game of the tournament to powerhouse South Boulder, 11-4. Boulder went on to dominate the tournament by winning every other game by more than 10 runs. Steamboat also lost to Academy by an 11-4 count.
But the coach said he was happy that his team had won the district tournament in early July and put forth a strong effort against the teams from Boulder and Colorado Springs.
“These programs have a lot more players to choose from, and they play together for a longer part of the season,” Gedeon said. “Our players came so far in just a short period of time. Hopefully, this is something that we can keep building on for next year.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com