Area teams ready for tournament |

Area teams ready for tournament

Rifle's Bryce Enewold - safe at second Eagle's #5 Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox

By Phil SandovalPost Independent StaffYouth baseball has taken a more serious tone for players throughout the area. With the formation of competitive travel squads along with a chartered Little League program in place, kids from Parachute to Basalt have more opportunities to play against higher-skilled competition.Each of the six area squads, representating five age groups, will be tested this weekend at the annual Triple Crown tournament at ballfields across the Roaring Fork valley.

The ultimate goal for each of the 56 teams scheduled to play in the three-day tournament that starts Friday is to earn a berth to the Triple Crown World Series in Steamboat Springs later this summer.Six separate Triple Crown tournaments will be held, featuring separate divisions for teams from age 10-16.But, just as important is the experience teams receive in playing against competitive squads that come from Orem, Utah, Aztec and Farmington, N.M. and across the Front Range.”We wanted to step up from the competition we played in (our town’s) recreation league,” said Rocky Fix, coach of the Rifle Valley Bandits, who will play in the 14-team, U14 year-old division this weekend.The Bandits, whose 12-player roster consists of Rifle, Silt and Parachute residents, also play in the Western Colorado Baseball Association and have 26 games under their belts to date.This is the second year the Rifle-based team has entered the local Triple Crown tournament. Another team, consisting of players from Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt under the banner of the Roaring Fork All-Stars, is part of the 14 and-under tournament.

“The teams in our league are tough, but these guys are a lot tougher,” Fix said of Triple Crown play.”(The Triple Crown) is whole new level of baseball for us,” said Roaring Fork manager John Blounts. “But the players have risen to the challenge.”Blounts’ team, which plays in the 12-team, 11U tournament at the North Face and River Valley Ranch ballfields in Carbondale, has participated in two earlier Triple Crown tournaments this year and have won four of six games.Paul Huttenhauer, manager of the 12U Roaring Fork All-Stars, said some Triple Crown rules will be an adjustment for his team.”The biggest change is Triple Crown rules allow baserunners to leadoff to steal bases,” he said. “So our pitchers will have to get used to that.”Huttenhauer’s team plays in the Three Rivers Little League, whose rules do not allow players to leave the base before the opposing team’s pitcher releases the ball.

The 12U tournament consists of nine teams, including squads from Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Those games will be played at three venues in Carbondale.The Valley All-Stars, a contingent of players from Glenwood and Carbondale, play in a two-day, five-team tournament against teams of 10 year-olds from Littleton, Arvada and Delta. Those games will be at Vogelaar Park, adjacent to Glenwood Springs Elementary School.Action starts with pool play games on Saturday leading up to Sunday’s single-elimination playoffs and championship game.Another local team consisting of Glenwood High students will participate in the eight-team U16 tournament at the Glenwood Springs Middle School diamond.That team also competes in the Western Colorado Baseball Association and won a Triple Crown, wood bat tournament in Grand Junction earlier this year.The only tournament not represented by an area team, features eight, 13 year-old squads from Grand Junction, Fruita and the Front Range. That division’s games will be in Glenwood at Two Rivers Park.The only tournament not represented by an area team, features eight, 13 year-old squads from Grand Junction, Fruita and the Front Range. That division’s games will be in Glenwood at Two Rivers Park.

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