It used to be that local baseball teams entered Triple Crown tournaments just for the experience.
That experience usually meant going 0-4 or 1-3 in pool play and getting beaten badly.
For the most part, those days are gone.
The success of local teams such as the Northwest Colorado Lynx has shown that teams from the area can compete. More and more teams from Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties are signing up for Triple Crown every year.
"This is the most teams from the area ever signed up for a tournament," said Sean Hardy, Triple Crown's director of baseball. "The teams have been improving, and others are noticing."
There are seven teams from the region signed up to play this weekend.
Last year, the Lynx finished third in the Mountain Magic Division 2 tournament. They have played in the Triple Crown World Series the past two years.
This year, the team of players from Craig, Steamboat, Hayden and Meeker have higher expectations for the Mountain Magic tournament.
"I think we are the most talented in our bracket," coach Shane Camilletti said. "I realistically think we should win it."
Last year, the team of 11-year-olds defeated the team that eventually won the tournament.
This year, there are 20 teams in the 12-and-younger bracket, including an entry from Steamboat. The Lynx open with two games today at Loudy-Simpson. The first game is at 9 a.m. against Arapahoe, and the second is at 1 p.m. against Alameda.
The Lynx already have played in two Triple Crown tournaments this summer, while the other two local teams, the 11-and-younger Colorado Cutthroats and the 14-and-younger Tri-County Trojans, will be playing in their first tournaments this weekend.
"We've had some successful scrimmages against Steamboat," Cutthroats coach Mark Nielsen said. "We've played well as a team."
The group of Hayden and Craig players went 1-3 last year.
"We hope to get out of pool play," Nielsen said. "After that, we'd like to qualify for the World Series."
A first- or second-place finish qualifies a team for the World Series. There are 20 teams in the 11-and-younger division, including the Yampa Valley Pioneers (from Hayden) and the Steamboat Sailors. The Cutthroats open the tournament today with an 8:30 a.m. game against the Fort Collins Grizzlies in Oak Creek.
The Tri-Country Trojans have a similar make-up to the Lynx, with players from all four towns in the region. They made the move from 12-and-younger to 14-and-younger this year to open the team up to next year's high school freshman.
"We've worked a lot in practice on defense," coach Rich Sadvar said. "The bats are coming along, though."
Sadvar said the jump in age groups made him less familiar with who they play.
"I could probably tell you a lot about the 13-year-olds," he said. "We don't know what to expect, but we've had success in the past."
The Trojans went undefeated in pool play last year but lost in the quarterfinals to finish in fifth place. Their age group has 15 teams, including a Steamboat Springs team. The Trojans open today at 8 a.m. in Steamboat against the A-West 14s from Arvada.
There are 70 teams in six age groups for the tournament. Games will run today through Sunday.
In addition to the Routt County players on the Colorado Cutthroats, Tri-County Trojans and Northwest Colorado Lynx, dozens of other area players are taking part in this weekend's Division 2 tournament.
Hardy said Steamboat is fielding a 10-and under team, although it didn't show up on initial brackets.
Steamboat and Hayden will have 11-and-under teams. Steamboat also has a 14-and-under team.