2023 ALWS runner-up looking for return trip to Shelby
The Lincoln, NE. Post 3 team celebrates after winning Game 11 of The 2023 American Legion World Series at Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C., on Sunday, August 13. Photo by Chet Strange/The American Legion

2023 ALWS runner-up looking for return trip to Shelby

Lincoln (Neb.) East Post 3 baseball coach Mychal Lanik loves everything about the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C.

He’s coached in the event four times, last year as the hard-luck loser to League City (Tex.) Post 554 in the championship game.

“I have a special place in my heart for Keeter Stadium,” Lanik said of the venue that has hosted the ALWS 13 times since 2008. “I was a 24-year-old assistant coach when I first went there and there’s just something about it.

“You look around at night and see the crowd and the banners on the fence and you realize it’s just a special place. I know it has a special place in my heart.”

All that’s left for Lanik to do is to win a title as he was an assistant for Omaha (Neb.) Creighton Prep Post 1 in 2017 when it also finished runner-up, as well as being a Creighton Prep assistant for fourth-place (2012) and fifth-place (2015) finishes in two other trips.

“When you start out in the summer, the goal is to play as long as you can,” said Lanik, who was a seven-year Creighton Prep Legion assistant before becoming Lincoln East’s head coach in 2019. “It's definitely one of those things that takes a lot of breaks and things to go right.

“And in Nebraska, the depth of Legion baseball is really, really good.”

As a state, Nebraska has won one ALWS (in 1939), had three runner-up finishes (1965, 2017 and 2023) and sent 23 teams to the ALWS including 11 since 2000.

Also head coach at Lincoln East High School, Lanik knows both his high school and American Legion Baseball teams will have targets on their backs this year as the high school team won the city of Lincoln’s first state title since 1977 and the Legion championship was Post 3’s first title-winner since 2006.

“We’ll have a lot of guys back,” Lanik said. “I expect about 10 or 11 guys from that team last year to play Legion ball this summer. Some of our main guys will be off playing in college leagues and that’s some of our main hitters for sure.

“But we’ll have some pitching back and we’ll have some tough kids back and we’ll give our best shot.”

Post 3’s two 2023 all-ALWS selections — first baseman A.J. Evasco and utility selection Garrett Springer — will be playing college summer league baseball but three of the top pitchers from the 2023 ALWS run are returning.

Carter Mick was a two-time hard luck loser in the ALWS, including the 1-0 loss to League City. Other returning pitchers are Paul Shortridge and Chase Nelson, who pitched Lincoln to wins over Brooklawn, N.J., and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, respectively, in the 2023 ALWS.

Other key returnees are starting second baseman Kai Burkey, center fielder Mason Gaines and left fielder Owen Laessig.

And while Lanik already knew about the ALWS experience from his previous visits, he says his team didn't fully grasp its significance until they returned home.

“In the moment, we were just trying to figure out who we would play, get scouting done and keep the boys loose and rested,” Lanik said. “When it got over and we travelled home and got back to school, it really kind of settled in the kind of run we just went on and the amount of people that we reached.

“There were so many watch parties back home and welcome parties when we got back. It was a pretty surreal experience. Plus, my players have told me the World Series in Shelby was the best baseball experience of their life. So it’s cool to be a part of that journey with them and be a part of something they’ll never forget.”

Lanik’s team will start its 2024 American Legion Baseball season in late May.

“Nebraska is super tough,” Lanik said. “We didn’t even win our area last year. We lost to Lincoln (Union Bank) Pius. But because Nebraska gets two (regional) representatives (due to more than 100 teams), we ended up getting in our state tournament and qualified that way.

“So getting out of Nebraska is a challenge and that’s why I think you see so many Nebraska teams make it to the World Series.”


American Legion Baseball

American Legion Baseball

American Legion Baseball enjoys a reputation as one of the most successful and tradition-rich amateur athletic leagues. Today, the program registers more than 5,400 teams in all 50 states, including Canada and Puerto Rico.

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