Shrewsbury Post 397 became the first Massachusetts-based team since 1978 to advance to the final four of the American Legion World Series, but were knocked out by the two-time defending champions, Idaho Falls Post 56, 5-4 in Shelby, N.C., on Monday night.
By sweeping the Northeast Regional tournament, Post 397 punched its ticket to play in its third American Legion World Series in six years. Shrewsbury only won one game in each appearance and the 2022 tournament started grimly with a 13-1 loss to Troy, Ala.
Post 397 battled back from the bottom of its division with a 4-1 victory over Camden (N.J.) Post 66, becoming the first Bay State team since East Springfield 44 years ago to reach the semifinals.
The celebration didn’t last long as the team had to refocus on its next challenge, facing the two time-defending champions, Idaho Falls, which won the Stripes division, in the semifinals.
Shrewsbury loaded the bases in the first inning with two singles and a walk. Center fielder Alexander Martin capitalized, lacing a single to left field for a 2-0 lead.
But it wouldn’t be smooth sailing for Shrewsbury as starting pitcher Brady Shea found himself in a jam in the bottom half of the inning, allowing the first two batters to reach scoring position. Coach Frank Vaccaro visited the mound to calm his pitcher and Shea struck out the next three batters.
The bottom of the second was a different story, as Idaho falls loaded the bases, forcing Vaccaro to pull his starter.
Righthander Ryan Sande hit the first batter he faced, scoring one. A sacrifice fly from center fielder Eliot Jones tied the game and the Bandits took the lead on a ground ball to first base.
A misplayed flyball by Chris Pompei allowed one more runner to score and Idaho Falls led 4-2.
Defensive mistakes made the difference again in the fourth as a wild throw to third on a stolen base attempt resulted in Idaho Falls’ fifth run.
Shrewsbury was down to its last out with runners on first and second, but lefty first baseman Zach Amero hit an opposite field two-run double to pull Post 397 within one. That jolt of energy wouldn’t last as be shot down as Idaho Falls reliever Jaxon Grimmett struck out the next batter, ending Shrewsbury’s 2022 campaign.
Idaho Falls moves on to play Troy in the championship game as they look to complete the first three-peat in American Legion history.