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Three Rivers wants more than just trip to State

G. Sean Kelly

After winning the Little League Junior District 1 crown, Three Rivers All-Stars coach T.J. Joiners said his players wouldn’t be happy just going to the State Tournament, they want to win it.

On Saturday Joiner and his players will find out how realistic that goal is.

After posting three straight victories at Districts by an average margin of six runs, the Three Rivers All-Stars open the Junior League State Tournament Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against District 3 champion Grand County-Winter Park at the Arapahoe Little League Complex in Aurora.

The other side of the bracket features a matchup between the District 5 and 2 champions, with Academy, a team out of Colorado Springs facing Bailey.

“We had a good week of practice and the players are really focused and working hard,” Joiner said.

As always, pitching will be key to the success of Three Rivers. Jake Bowman, who played for the Carbondale Rockies this summer, notched a pair of victories in the district tourney. He dominated Monument in a 7-1 win and, while he didn’t have his best stuff in the title game, battled to a 9-7 win.

Beau Chicoine, of the Glenwood Dodgers, was equally impressive, shutting out Grand Mesa 10-0 in his only start of the tournament. While Joiner likes his odds with either pitcher, he gave Chicoine the starting nod for Saturday’s contest. Bowman will start Sunday and Nick Harris of the Basalt Diamondbacks is available from relief in either game.

“The rotation is such that I could throw either one, but Jake is still a little tired,” Joiner said. “If we get the pitching I think we’ll have some good success in Denver.”

Offensively, A.J. Joiner of Carbondale led the squad in Districts with a .545 average, and the team benefited from an on-base percentage of over .500 from leadoff hitter Tucker Hinch, a Basalt Brave before being selected for the 13-14-year-old All-Star team.

Bowman also swung the bat well at times during Districts, and Joiner hopes Chicoine will break out of his slump for the State Tournament.

“Beau had one hit and three walks in three games at Districts,” Joiner said. “We’re looking for Beau to come out of it.

“When A.J., Beau and Bowman are really driving the ball it gets the rest of the team going.”

This group of players also has the advantage of experience at the State Tournament. As 11-12 year olds, Three Rivers advanced out of Districts and lost two one-run games at state two years ago, something T.J. Joiner doesn’t plan on repeating.

“I think our pitching is better and our defense is better and our hitting is better,” Joiner said. “We will learn from what we did right and wrong last time.”

And if any extra inspiration is needed, the players may find it while attending Friday’s Colorado Rockies game against the Milwaukee Brewers. The players will be allowed to go down on the field prior to the game and Three Rivers’ attendance will be announced on the scoreboard during the game.

If Three Rivers wins Saturday the squad advances to a semifinal contest Sunday at 10 a.m. against the winner of the Bailey-Academy game. A loss puts Three Rivers in the loser-out bracket at 12:30 Sunday.

“What you want to do is win Saturday and Sunday, then you get to come back and play Tuesday night for the title,” T.J. Joiner said. “But we’ll take the hand we’re dealt and do what we can with it.”

The title game is at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.


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