Long state tournament drought comes to an end for Three Rivers Little League squad
The Three Rivers Little League All-Star baseball team is headed to the state tournament for the first time in a long time.
How long? None of the players on this year’s roster had been born the last time it had happened. That’s how long.
The Major All-Stars (ages 11-12) last week qualified for the state championship tournament with a dominating performance in the District 1 championship game in Grand Junction.
The Three Rivers team, which includes players from Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Basalt and Eagle, won the District 1 title game, 11-1, over Monument, a Grand Junction-area team.
The state championships will start today in Winter Park, with the Three Rivers’ first game of the tournament scheduled for 5 p.m. today. It’s the first time in 15 years a Three Rivers squad has qualified for the state championships.
“We’re pretty excited. This doesn’t happen very often,” the team’s head coach, Scott Houston, said. “We have a lot of dads who volunteered their time this year, and it’s made a big difference.”
The team opened the district playoffs with a 10-0 win over Fruita, then defeated Monument, 12-2, before beating the Colorado River Valley All-Stars, 22-2.
That victory set up a rematch with Monument for the district title. Three Rivers won, 11-1.
Consistent hitting and strong pitching propelled the Three Rivers team, according to Three Rivers assistant coach Scott Fitzwilliams. None of Three Rivers’ opponents lasted a full game, as the Major All-Stars won each of their tournament games by 10-run mercy rule.
The kids on the roster who hail from the Glenwood Springs area include Rio Kauffman, Sam Fitzwilliams and Cole Houston. David Reilly, Luke Morrisey and Joey Beveridge, along with Jake Ticer, are from Eagle.
Jake Reardon is from Basalt, and Jack Pevney, Matt Rigney, Sam Richie and Jon Haisfield are from Aspen.
The team recently got a big morale boost as they prepared for the state tournament. They practiced at Bergmann Field on the Colorado Mesa University campus earlier this week and received some tips from Mesa baseball coach Chris Hanks, a Carbondale native who led Mesa to the NCAA Division II national championship game last month.
Houston, who is assisted by Ted Kaufmann and Scott Fitzwilliams, said on Wednesday the only problem the coaching staff has had is that the team is so talented it makes it hard to sit anybody.
‘This is a super-consistent group of kids, and that’s been our biggest strength this year,” Houston said. “But it’s also been our biggest problem because everyone is so talented that you hate to sit anyone. We’re just very fortunate for that, because anyone on the roster can play at a high level at any position.”
The tournament, which uses a double-elimination format, begins today and will run through Sunday for teams that reach the championship game. State champions advance to regional play. Regional winners move on to the Little League World Series on Aug. 14 in Williamsport, Pa.
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