Success on the baseball diamond is a staple in Braintree.
Braintree High won consecutive MIAA Division 1A championships, qualified for the Super 8 tournament again in 2017, and advanced to the Division 1 South semis in 2018.
This summer, many of those same players have played integral roles for the Braintree Post 86 American Legion baseball team.
The 18 Braintree teens have produced a 13-1 record in the postseason — and 24-8 overall — including a redemptive 7-4 win over defending champion Shrewsbury in the Northeast Regional final in Auburn Aug. 12. With the win, Braintree advanced to the 92nd American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., making the program’s first appearance since 1989.
Braintree was scheduled to play three games starting Thursday afternoon. The third, against Post 1 from Wilmington, Del., is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.
The top four finishers among the eight contenders will face off in Monday’s semifinals, with the winners advancing to Tuesday’s final. All games can be viewed on ESPNU and on WatchESPN.
“We’re a town team. We’re strictly Braintree,” said Post 86 coach Cam Fox, a five-year assistant at Braintree High under Bill O’Connell.
“And to do this with town kids who have played together since Little League makes it quite rewarding.”
While Legion teams can include any local players under the age of 20, Braintree Post 86 is comprised of 18 town residents, 17 of whom are current or former students at Braintree High. Aidan Carey, a rising junior at Boston College High, is the only player who attends a different school.
Kyle Gray, a sophomore at Worcester State, has functioned as the team’s ace, posting a 2.93 earned run average and striking out 19 while winning all three of his starts in the District 6 and Northeast Regional tournaments.
Current Braintree High arms John Tellier, Jack Collins, and Kyle Roche fill out the pitching staff. Center fielder Jackson Duffy hit .380 with three home runs to earn MVP honors in the district tourney. Catcher Alex Kennedy (.463) was MVP of the regional.
After falling, 5-1, to Shrewsbury Post 397 in last year’s regional final, the Braintree players were on a mission as soon as the high school season concluded.
“High school [season] was kind of our warm-up,” said Kennedy, a University of New Hampshire commit.
“We’re pretty experienced since a lot of us have been playing in the postseason the last few years. Coming into this tournament, we knew how to compete and that gave us a bit of an upper hand.”
In his second season at the helm, Fox has focused on creating the same atmosphere that’s fostered success at Braintree High. The slogan echoed by his fellow volunteer coaches is “loose and locked in.”
“Coach loves that [slogan],” Kennedy said with a laugh. “We always joke about it, but it’s true. When we show up to practice we stay loose, but when it’s game time, we know it’s game time.”
Nate Weitzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.