Local players set to take on state | VailDaily.com

Local players set to take on state

Jon Mitchell
jmitchell@postindependent.com

GYPSUM — Some members of the Three Rivers Little League Junior softball team didn't know for sure how long it had been since a softball team in the league had reached state-tournament play.

"My dad was like, 'It's probably been about 10 years since a softball team has made it, but don't say anything,'" first baseman Brooklyn Vargas, of Gypsum, said.

Actually, until now, Three Rivers Little League, which draws players from Aspen to Eagle, had never qualified a softball team at any level for state tournament play. What's more, the Three Rivers Junior All-Stars (13 to 14 years old) are just one of the four teams the organization will send to state tournament play.

Each of the four state tournaments begin Saturday and, needless to say, the junior softball girls are taking a lot of pride in what they've accomplished.

'An Amazing Feeling'

"I didn't even know there was an All-Star softball team before this spring," said infielder Morgan Needham, of Carbondale, one of three players on the 11-team roster who are from the Roaring Fork Valley. "And then to be on it and have a chance to play in the state tournament is just an amazing feeling."

Recommended Stories For You

That amazing feeling seems to be contagious this summer. Though the junior softball team — which boasts eight players from Gypsum on its roster — is the first softball team Three Rivers has sent to state, the organization is also sending three baseball teams in its Major/Minors squad (10- and 11-year-olds), its Majors team (12-year olds) and its Junior team.

"I'm on Cloud Nine right now," Three Rivers director Steve Martin said. "I can't begin to explain how happy I am."

Martin explained that in the previous 16 years of Three Rivers' existence, only three teams — including last year's district-champion Majors team — had ever reached state tournament play. The three state-qualifying baseball teams matched that, and the addition of the softball team only added to it.

"These kids and parents have put made a pretty big commitment," Martin said. "Even for the kids who live in Aspen to drive to practice all the time in Glenwood takes a lot because that's a long haul."

Martin also said that, although there's a wealth of talent with the players on the teams, each player is being taught to play the "right way." He added that five of the coaches of this year's teams have played baseball at either the professional or college level.

Focusing on the Game

That level of knowledge, along a motivated group of players, have helped things come together for each team — especially the junior softball squad.

"The great thing about this team is that these girls want to get better," said Junior softball head coach Jason Vargas, who played baseball at Division I Cal State Northridge from 1994 to 1995. "With so many other things going on for kids during the summer, it's great to see them put their focus here."

Each team will play in a double-elimination tournament that, for the winners, extends through the weekend and into the beginning of next week. Tournament winners advance to regional play, which takes place in either Texas or New Mexico.

The Majors/Minor baseball squad begins state tournament play at 9 a.m. Saturday in Thornton, and the Majors team plays at Durango beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. The Junior boys open play at 11 a.m. Saturday at Arapahoe, and the Junior girls will play their first game at 1 p.m. Saturday, also in Arapahoe.

THREE RIVERS TEAM ROSTERS

Here are the rosters for each of the four Three Rivers Little League teams that will be participating in state-tournament play starting on Saturday.

MAJOR-MINORS (10-11 year olds)

Roster: Wish Moore, Mason Smith, Brady Conrardy, Sam Sherry, Cole Dombrowski, Graham Pietsch, Blake Chadbourne, Henry Richardson, Lucas Lee, Ryder Pietsch, Ryan Garcia, David Hubbell.

MAJORS (12-year-olds)

Dylan Albright, Wheatley Nieslanik, Garrett Dollahan, Jake Hoofnagle, Jack Peuny, Ryan Conley, Zoe Vozich, Ricky Koch, Tyler Sims, Gabe Foster, Anthony Vasquez, Kaleb Williams, Jake Doyle.

JUNIOR BASEBALL (13-14-year-olds)

Sebastian Gonzalez, Rio Kauffman, Humberto Tarin, Sam Fitzwilliams, Wyatt Ewer, Ralph Good, Ash Stolley, Elliott Hoofnagle, Joey Beveridge, Garrett Flaagan, Jake Ticer, and Garrett Anderson. Coaches include head coach Scott Fitzwilliams and assistants Ted Kauffman and Tim Stolley.

JUNIOR SOFTBALL (13-14-year-olds)

Madison Arnold, Samantha Arnold, Savanna Vasquez, Shayden Jones, Arianna Pena, Lexi Valdez, Caroline Paxson, Gabby Jiminez, Brooklyn Vargas, Morgan Needham, Nayeli Olivas.