Steves’ Orchard Mesa team not resting on past success

Orchard Mesa Little League Major boys coach Pete Steves is getting to teach the valuable lesson of not looking too far into the future.

Last year, Steves’ Major boys team won the District 1 tournament and the state tournament to advance to the Southwestern Regional in Waco, Texas.

Once there, Orchard Mesa made its way out of pool play and into the semifinals, something no other team from Colorado had ever done.

Orchard Mesa lost 10-0 in its semifinal game against Pearland White Little League, which was televised nationally on ESPN2.

Orchard Mesa is attempting to make back-to-back trips to Texas, beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday with its first game in the Major boys District 1 tournament against Monument at Palisade Little League.

“They are excited about doing it again, but everyone wants to beat us,” Steves said. “So we have to take everyone’s best shot and keep focusing on one game at a time.”

Orchard Mesa returns four players from last year’s team in Toby Steves, Derek Rubalcaba, Gage Fransen and Hunter Kelchner.

The Major boys bracket has nine teams with Fruita, Palisade, Monument, Orchard Mesa, Grand Mesa, Cortez, Montrose, Colorado River Valley and Three Rivers all vying for the district title.

Steves said as exciting as the state and regional tournaments are, the district tournament is one of the best experiences of the Little League summer tournaments.

“It’s the best part, and it’s a lot harder than state,” Steves said. “There are more teams, and more games so it’s more intense.”

The nine-team bracket is double elimination, with the championship game set for July 15. There is an ‘if-necessary’ game, which would be played on July 16.

Steves said because it’s a big tournament, and Little League has rules in regards to pitch counts and days rest for pitchers, falling into the loser’s bracket can make it challenging to make the finals.

“You want everything to go well so you can stay in the winner’s bracket,” Steves said. “Once you lose, then pitching becomes a big concern.”

The winner of the District 1 tournament advances to the Colorado State Tournament, which begins July 21 at Cherry Creek Little League.

The end goal for every Major boys team is the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., beginning Aug. 18.


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