Crown Mountain Park was home to a state tournament of 8, 9 and 10-year-olds for an elite Little League event that finished July 22. According to Tom Dion, head coach, this marked the first time ever that the Three Rivers Little League had either qualified for or hosted this prestigious competition.
Three Rivers Little League includes athletes from Aspen to Edwards, Dion said. The all-star team that competed last weekend in El Jebel included 13 players, six of whom live in the Roaring Fork Valley: Clayton Folk of Aspen, Carbondale’s Chase Fenton and Diezl Dion, Evan Neuman, Aiden Justice and Gabriel Ortega of Glenwood Springs.
Three Rivers beat the eventual tournament runner-up, North Boulder, in a thrilling game on Friday night that ended with a score of 24–21.
“With the win, we moved on to the second round,” Dion said. Pitted against a team from Monument (north of Colorado Springs), the local boys hung tough but ended up losing to Monument by a score of 11-7. That put Three Rivers in the loser’s bracket where again they played North Boulder.
“We were exhausted and running low on pitchers,” according to Dion, yet for most of the game the team managed to match North Boulder run for run. But in the bottom of the sixth inning (games are six innings long), the Front Range team scored to win it 6–5. (A coin flip determined who was the home team and ironically, the local team never won the toss.)
“It was heartbreaking,” said Dion about the final loss; he nonetheless found solace in the fact this was the first-time ever that the Three Rivers Team, which finished in third place, made it to this elite level. Dion also noted that the North Boulder team to whom they lost was coached by former Major League Baseball player Brad Lynch, who won a World Series in 2008 while a member of the Phillies.
“If we’re going to lose, I guess we’re going to lose to a coach that has a World Series ring,” Dion added.
Three Rivers has since June 10 practiced at Tiny Nightingale field in Carbondale – which is centrally located for the players.
“Getting a bunch of kids together that didn’t know each other” was a success unto itself, Dion noted. “All had a role on the team whether it was big or small. They all embraced it.”
And he added that even though the games are only six innings long, “This is full-on baseball. (For example) There’s stealing involved.”
Spectator interest was also high; for Friday night’s win against North Boulder, he estimated there were about 150 spectators who turned out at Crown Mountain Park.
On the final day of the tourney, the team from Monument, which is actually called Tri-Lakes, bested North Boulder by a score of 11-10.