Area Little League wraps up playoff games
For baseball fans in the midvalley area last week, early June had the distinctive feel of October as the Three Rivers Little League wrapped up its season with several tense and well played playoff games.
The 13-14 year-old division was won by the Basalt Braves, a third-place team that started off the season strong but slumped deeply in midseason, only to find itself peaking at precisely the right time.
After the dominating Carbondale Rockies disposed of the Basalt Cardinals earlier in the day, the Braves faced off with the Carbondale Mariners, a team that was solid all season thanks to their strong pitching and timely hitting.
All involved knew going into the game that these two teams had played each other evenly all season long, with three games, two won by the Mariners, decided by a total of three runs.
As expected, the semifinal between the Braves and the Mariners was a classic baseball contest, with the Braves prevailing 6-5 after Matt Fox scored the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth and final inning to give the Braves the one-run lead.
Pitcher Dillon Johnson finished off the Mariners for the come-from-behind victory to set up a grudge match against the Rockies, who had two scintillating one-run victories over the Braves toward the end of the regular season.
The championship game was a tremendous defensive struggle, highlighted in the early innings by the Braves infielders, who helped pitcher Cody Smith strand eight Rockies in the first three innings.
A great play was turned in by Basalt outfielder Adam Gawrys, who relayed to second baseman Craig Zoellick, who made a perfect throw to nail Rocky Adam Frank at home plate.
But the Rockies had confidence in their ace, Jake Boyle.
Boyle earlier in the season had one-hit the Braves and he kept Basalt at bay in the championship game with his hard fastball and biting curve.
After striking out the side in the top of the third inning, Boyle walked Braves lead-off man Fox in the top of the fourth. Colter Hinch drove in Fox from third to break the scoreless tie and give the Braves the only run they would need in a 3-0 win.
Johnson came to the mound in the fourth inning and allowed only three Rocky base-runners the rest of the way to pick up his second win of the playoffs.
“I felt like we had a really good team. I wish that we had won, but it was really competitive and I had a lot of fun,” said Carbondale’s Mike Emerson.
“The Rockies are a very good team, a hard team to beat, and Jake (Boyle) is a great pitcher,” said Johnson of the Braves. “We played really well in the playoffs. I had a lot of confidence in my defense because they were making all of the plays behind me.”
From here the kids from the Three Rivers Little League will regroup as an all-star team that will travel to Grand Junction July 10-17 to take on the best of the rest of the Western Slope.
The winner of that tournament will advance another step on a road that could lead to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
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