Three Rivers softball team wins state title
DENVER — Jason Vargas and his players on the Three Rivers Little League Junior softball team could hardly contain themselves on Sunday.
They had good reason. Thanks to the team’s 14-8 victory over Westminster in the three-team, state-tournament title game for the 13- to 14-year-old age group, it became the first state champion in Three Rivers’ 16-year history and the first team to reach regional tournament play.
“Words just can’t describe the way that we’re feeling right now,” an emotional coach Jason Vargas said by phone while the team drove home from the Front Range. “We are all on an absolute extreme emotional high right now and, no matter what happens after this, the girls will always have an extreme sense of accomplishment for what they’ve done.”
Sunday’s victory wasn’t the first time the softball Juniors have pulled off a first. Last week, the team became the first Three Rivers softball team to reach a state tournament. With Sunday’s win, the softball Juniors will become the first Three Rivers Little League team — baseball or softball — to reach regional play when the tournament begins Friday in Santa Fe, N.M.
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Other teams that were in action on Sunday for Three Rivers — which fields teams with players from Eagle to Glenwood Springs to Aspen — included the baseball Juniors (13 to 14), the baseball Majors (12-year-olds) and the baseball Major/Minors (10 to 11).
The Three Rivers Major/Minors prevailed 11-1 in an elimination game and will continue tournament play today. The baseball Juniors held on for a 10-8 victory over Westminster in 11 innings — yes, 11 innings — after it broke a 6-6 tie in the top of the 11th with a four-run frame. The baseball Majors, playing in Durango, dropped into the tournament’s elimination bracket following its 12-0 loss to Boulder.
The Westminster Juniors, which won a loser-out game earlier in the day to advance to the title game, needed to beat Three Rivers twice to advance to the regional tournament. Instead, much like Three Rivers’ 12-3 victory over Westminster on Saturday, the Juniors’ bats dictated the outcome.
Lexi Valdez finished 4-for-5 batting with two RBIs to go with a 3-for-5, three-double performance from Caroline Paxon. Madison Arnold and Nayeli Olivas also had three hits each, and Brooklyn Vargas added a pair of doubles to the Juniors’ hitting attack.
Savannah Vasquez went the distance on the mound for the Juniors, allowing four hits with five strikeouts. Most of the runs she allowed, Vargas said, were off of walks.
The team is made up of one Glenwood Springs player, two Carbondale players and eight Gypsum players. Officially, the team will play in the Junior League Softball Southwest Regional Tournament against host team Santa Fe at 1 p.m. Friday. The winner advances to the Junior League World Series in Kirkland, Wash.
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