Depth on mound, at plate should help Colorado state champions

James D’Annibale has thrown a lot of the big games lately.



By KENT MINCER

Little League baseball teams from Colorado have generally found the going tough once they reach the Southwestern Regional Little League baseball tournament level.

Then again, few of the representatives from the other five districts have faced the pitching depth the Grand Mesa Senior boys team brings to this year’s tournament.

Grand Mesa opens the six-day regional tournament Friday night in Seguin, Texas, against New Mexico.

A Colorado team has never won the Southwestern Regional Senior tournament.

“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Grand Mesa manager Steve Steinkirchner said.

That’s why he’s telling his players, “Let’s go have fun and go play baseball.”

The Senior boys are not the only Grand Mesa team competing in a regional tournament this week. The Major boys open play against White Hall, Ark., at noon (MST) Friday in Waco, Texas.

Depth, both on the mound and in the batting order, has been the strength of the Seniors throughout district and state tournament play.

“It’s tough to pick 1 through 9,” Steinkirchner said.

If any of them is having a tough day at the plate, he’s got six other players on the bench ready to play.

“This team is going to score runs,” Steinkirchner said.

Steinkirchner also has the luxury of throwing any one of seven pitchers. Because of Grand Mesa’s dominance in the district and state tournaments, he’s only had to use four pitchers so far.

One of them, James D’Annibale, threw a complete game in Grand Mesa’s 12-4 victory over Colorado Springs in last week’s state championship game.

“Our biggest thing is probably our pitching,” D’Annibale said.

A series of walks and hit batters got him in a first-inning jam, but he was able to pitch out of it, giving up only one run. Grand Mesa took the lead in the next inning and never looked back.

“(It feels) good, really good,” D’Annibale said of being a state champion.

He’s aware of the challenge facing the team beginning this weekend.

“I’m looking very forward to it,” he said.

AJ Martinez, who hit a couple of home runs during the state tournament, said the reality of the team’s accomplishment finally set in early this week.

“It kind of hit me (Sunday) when I was looking on the Internet at the (Little League) World Series,” he said. “We’re one step away.”

The team realizes how large a step it is. Grand Mesa just hopes to be a strong representative.

“As long as it’s our ‘A’ game, if we lose, OK,” D’Annibale said.


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