Tuesday night, in front of a crowd of more than 6,000, the Brooklawn, N.J., Post 72 American Legion Baseball team claimed what it lost during the 2012 American Legion World Series (ALWS): the championship title. It was the third ALWS title in the program's history.
Last year, Brooklawn remained scoreless against New Orleans in the championship game. But the 2012 runner-up defeated Petaluma, Calif., off a 10-run mercy rule during the 2013 ALWS in Shelby, N.C.
In Tuesday's opening game, Petaluma eliminated 2011 World Series team and crowd-favorite Waipahu, Hawaii, with an 8-2 win to secure a spot in the doubleheader championship game against Brooklawn. Brooklawn pounded 17 hits, scoring in every inning except the third and ending the game with four runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Three earned runs at the bottom of the seventh raised the score 9-0. Then Brooklawn third baseman Nick Cieri stepped to the plate, slammed one to right field and sent short stop Phil Dickinson across home plate to score the winning run.
"You look at talent and they (California) are probably better than us," said Fran Kinsey, right fielder for Brooklawn. "We have a lot of new and younger guys on our team, but like I've said to people back home, we don't rebuild we reload."
The ALWS is familiar ground for the New Jersey team. Since 1960, Brooklawn Post 72 has made 15 appearances in the ALWS, was runner-up in 1984 and 2012, and was World Series champion in 1991 and 2001.
"To be considered the (2013) national Legion World Series champion is great because we have a lot of history in this program," said Mike Shawaryn, starting pitcher for Brooklawn and a returning player from the 2012 campaign. "It's truly an honor to be here; we battled back and played extremely hard throughout this tournament. I've played for Post 72 for four years, but out of all those years this is the best year by far."
Brooklawn coach Josh Copskey has also experienced his share of ALWS appearances. As a former Brooklawn Post 72 player, he played in the Series for three consecutive years from 1998-2000. And now as a coach for the team since 2005, Copskey has helped lead Brooklawn to the ALWS for three consecutive years from 2011-2013.
"It's great to give back," Copskey said. "We have a lot of young kids on the team so to keep them calm was our biggest task, but they were really excited, and they played really well today and throughout the tournament.
"Right before the game the players got together and said, ‘This is our moment, and we are going to walk this dream together.' It's really neat that they got to experience that."