The best in the Southwest? |

The best in the Southwest?

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox

EL JEBEL ” To a young man, every Three Rivers Little League Junior All-Star knows what he and his baseball teammates are up against as they kick off their World Series bid this weekend.

The 13- and 14-year-olds will face teams from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi at the Aug. 3-9 Southwest region tournament in Grand Junction.

Somehow survive and these youngsters will punch their ticket to Taylor, Mich., for the big series.

“When you’re playing teams where two cities in their state (Texas) are bigger than your state, everyone definitely wants to win,” said Three Rivers 13-year-old Tanner Gianinetti.

It won’t be easy, but Gianinetti and his teammates seem unfazed.

Practicing Monday at Crawford Field in El Jebel, these star ballplayers from Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen were loose but focused.

“I’ll just get the first hit out of the way for you guys,” Lamont Gross joked before leading off a situational hitting drill. A few pitches from manager Thor Reeds later, he delivered on the promise.

As you’d expect with young teens, jokes and horseplay took center stage on the diamond. But the importance of their trip to Grand Junction’s Grand Mesa Little League Complex on Friday wasn’t lost on the Three Rivers crew.

“This is just fun and exciting,” said 13-year-old Mario Gonzalez. “It’s a great chance to play some really good teams. I think we’re good enough to beat any team.”

Three Rivers leads off pool play with a team from East Texas at 4 p.m. Friday. They’ll play Louisiana at 8 p.m. Saturday and then face Colorado’s other region qualifier, Westminster, at 8 p.m. on Monday. Bracket play follows Tuesday through Thursday.

Three Rivers, which received a bye in the state tournament because they are representing regional host Little League District 1, are out to prove they belong.

“I wish we could have played the state tournament,” Gianinetti said. “It would have been nice to have that under our belt. I definitely think it’s up to us to show Colorado isn’t a pushover state.”

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