Go Fourth and play: Local diamond teams will have busy Fourth weekend

Michael McGovern and the Gene Taylor’s team will take their cuts at the Firecracker Tournament in Laramie, Wyo., this weekend.

The Fourth of July is a celebration for America.

What’s more patriotic than playing the national pastime?

The Fourth of July weekend is a busy time on baseball and softball fields, with local competitive teams heading to tournaments.

The Gene Taylor’s American Legion baseball team is playing in the Firecracker Tournament in Laramie, Wyo.

“There are always tournaments going on,” Gene Taylor’s coach Blaine Bernades said. “I think it’s an easy draw for a team to host a tournament because they can put some festivities on, and it’s usually a weekend where it’s not hard to find a tournament.”

On the competitive softball side, the Grand Valley Crush is at one of the largest Fourth of July tournaments in the country, the Triple Crown Sparkler in Westminster.

“Most of the time we try to pick something up this weekend,” Crush coach Lanny Paulson said. “There isn’t much after this weekend, this is really the last chance to get in some games before the national tournaments.”

The Crush is an 18-under team playing in the Sparkler, which has drawn 600 teams from 45 states in various age groups.

“The competition is really good here,” Paulson said. “There are a lot of good kids at this level and we’ll take our lumps, but we’ll keep getting better.”

However, the Crush hasn’t taken its lumps. Instead, the team has advanced to the championship bracket of its age group, which has 134 teams entered. The Crush defeated a team from Texas 4-0, another Colorado club 9-2, a team from Washington 7-4 and tied a California team 5-5. The Crush is the only Colorado team to advance to the top double-elimination bracket, which began Friday.

The Taylor’s team is headed to Wyoming looking to find consistency. The 19-under team lost its first seven games before stringing together a six wins. After that, Taylor’s lost three straight.

“I really think the talent is there,” Bernades said. “We are gaining some ground, and took a small back step at the end of (last) weekend but I think as long as these guys can play together and find ways to execute, I really don’t think this team should struggle as much as we are.”

The Firecracker Tournament is the link into the final stretch of Gene Taylor’s season. Taylor’s has the Boulder National Invitational from July 8-11 before finishing up its regular season July 19 with a doubleheader against Heritage.

Taylor’s goal is to make the Colorado American Legion ‘A’ state tournament July 28-31 in Greeley.

“First of all we have to worry about getting to that state tournament,” first baseman Michael McGovern said. “We’ve let a couple of Legion games slip, so we have to work on getting there, but if we do, I think we can make a run to be a top team.”

In previous years, Taylor’s played as an independent team. Returning to American Legion has given a different feel to the tournament games they play. With the Legion games determining postseason play, tournaments are a time to sharpen up for Legion games.

“I don’t know what we’ll see because I don’t know the Wyoming teams and northern Colorado teams,” Bernades said. “So our goal for this weekend is to play crisp defense, throw strikes and get timely hits.”

McGovern said he’s played plenty of games on the Fourth, but said this is probably his first tournament over the holiday weekend. Taylor’s is playing in three tournaments this season, and McGovern said it’s a great way to spend a summer.

“You have to be dedicated but it’s worth it,” McGovern said. “It’s a lot fun.”


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