Steamboat U14 baseball team erases slow start with strong Denver tourney

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— Youth baseball is in full swing, and already some Steamboat Springs squads are showing signs of excellence despite a rough stretch to open the season.

The Steamboat U14 select team opened its season in early May at the CABA Tournament in Denver. But an 0-3 start was the result of a young group competing for the first time together and the competition being seasoned with a variety of tournaments already under their belts.

“While we had been competing against teams who had been in their fifth or sixth tourney, this was our first one and was a very, very shaky start,” coach David Reece said.

The second tournament, however, was a huge turnaround.

In the USSSA May Mania in Denver on May 17 and 18, the team dropped its first two games in pool play, 15-11 to Northeastern and 11-5 to Evergreen, setting up a steep hill to climb in bracket play.

Steamboat responded in a resounding way, cruising past Arvada, 19-1, with Zach Cooke on the mound. The team advanced and knocked of the No. 1-seed Sandlot Sharks, 7-6, also with Cooke on the mound.

Steamboat was handled by the eventual tournament champion Denver Pirates, 12-0, but the team’s resiliency in the season’s early going was a welcome sign.

“The kids have really come out and taken the direction that coach Rob Fitzhugh and I have given them,” Reece said. “We see that in each and every game as baseball players.”

The team since has played in the Western Slope Summer Series in Edwards on May 24 and 25, winning its first game against Eagle, 5-4, behind a shutout performance by Payton McElhiney on the mound and Canon Reece’s closing performance.

The team also knocked of Edwards, 12-5, in Game 2, as Canon Reece pitched a complete game.

Steamboat took its winning ways in to Day 2, knocking off Eagle, 10-7, with Theo Hansen recording the win at pitcher and Sean Patten knocking in a home run. They closed out the tournament with an 11-6 loss to Meeker when Cooke went down with an injury. Steamboat knotted things up at 6-all, but a strong seventh inning from Meeker knocked Steamboat out.

It’s a young team, Reece said, with a number of U13 players getting valuable experience at the higher level.

“They’re getting a chance to play in the Tuesday-Thursday major YVYBA league,” Reece said. “They are getting a lot of time to practice with U14 team and see what next-level baseball is.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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