Tourney wraps up 26-year run in Colorado high country with wood bat event
By Don Cameron
Locals dedicate Steamboat Triple Crown title to beloved teammate
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO – For 26 years, a highlight of the slowpitch summer has been the Triple Crown Fourth of July tournament in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Triple Crown's 2008 event drew 59 teams in five divisions in a wood-bat-only tourney.
With Triple Crown departing the slowpitch scene due to financial reasons, the Steamboat event proved a worthy sendoff, headlined by a local men's team winning the E division title in memory of an avid player and cancer victim.
The Yampa Valley SI 11, a mix of two league teams from Steamboat and Craig in north-central Colorado, steamrolled to a 5-0 record in men's E to win the championship.
"It was great to find that kind of camaraderie and chemistry that we formed with two different league teams that are serious rivals every Wednesday night in league," Yampa ballplayer Joey Rind said. "We had his spirit, a soul watching over us."
That spirit was Steve Ivers, a longtime ballplayer and adult softball league coordinator in Craig. Ivers, 37, died in May after a two-year battle with cancer. Ivers also played tournament ball with JABT on the Western Slope of Colorado.
"He was one of those guys who didn't have any enemies," said Jeremy Haptonstall, who helped orchestrate the tourney team. "It was an uplifting cause. Cancer touches everybody in one way or another. All the guys wanted to be a part of this great cause."
And they played like it. Yampa Valley dominated in the 14-team E division, winning 25-3 in its opener, then 15-7 and 22-7. A 6-1 win vs. Pueblo Viejo earned Yampa a spot in the title game at the legendary Howelsen Hill complex tucked between the Yampa River and Howelsen Hill ski jumping complex.
True to form, Yampa was superb on defense in the championship game, yielding just one run to Big Stix from Evans, CO, in a 9-1 finale.
"Our strength was defense," Rind said. "We turn lots of double plays, we always hit the cutoffs, have good arms in the outfield."
Yampa was led by all-tournament selections Jeff Worst (first base), Shane Camilletti (pitcher) and Jeremy Soldberg (shortstop).
Offensively, Yampa Valley found its groove right away despite little experience using lumber instead of metal. "We knew wood would play into our advantage, our defense," Haptonstall said, "and we knew we'd be OK at the plate if we hit the ball like we were capable."
Other members of the winning team were Kenny Loose, Rob Satterwhite, Shane Winder, Tim Frentress, Bryan Baker, Russ Hill, Josh Lemon, Manny Madrid, Ray Valente and Sean Brian.
"To be able to win the tournament in memory of Steve," Rind said, "and present the MVP sweatshirt to his mother on Sunday morning, makes for a meaningful situation."
The Show rules in men's D
In the Triple Crown men's D division, The Show out of Evans, CO, went 6-1 to take home the trophy. Aurora's Endless was second and AEI of Denver tied with Longmont, CO, team Black Roofing/Wolfpack for third.
Matt Rusch pitched and was the offensive star for The Show, belting three homers, with his brother, shortstop Marcus Rusch, turning in a stellar two-way effort.
Team captain Dominick Neves said the wood bats posed a challenge, but one the team responded to. "We were pretty confident, because most of us had played a high level of baseball and used wood bats at some point," Neves said. "For the guys who didn't, it was somewhat of an adjustment at first, but by the time the last day rolled around, when we beat Wolfpack, we were hitting the ball really solid."
Women's Divisions crown two
The Lady Twisters of Colorado Springs went 4-0 to take the women's upper crown, while Aftermath SBC of Commerce City went undefeated in women's lower, ahead of the Ball Breakers and Colorado Commotion.
Twisters, Mac Softball win Coed
Twisters topped Hitmen in mixed upper, with Frozen Ropes third and Mac Softball (Overland Park, KS) took the mixed lower crown, ahead of Spartacus Transfer and TOTT.
The tourney wrapped up a 26-year run of summer softball fun by Fort Collins, CO-based Triple Crown, which will now focus on youth and other adult sports with its exit from adult softball.
"Steamboat Springs is by far the best place in the U.S. to host a tourney," event director Phil Small of Triple Crown said. "We have played ball everywhere in the U.S. and there is nothing like it. There is so much to see and do in the beautiful small mountain area, unlike anywhere else."
"It was a little bittersweet," The Show's Neves added. "A lot of guys have been going up there since the early '80s. It's a tournament that we look at as a vacation. All the wives and kids go. Hopefully someone else picks it up or takes it to another venue in the mountains."