MILFORD — The Lawrence Legion baseball program hit rock bottom in the summer of 2017 when insufficient funding and a lack of player interest cancelled the season.
Two years later and they are now the best Legion team in the state.
On Thursday night, lefthanders Miguel Matos and Jairo Vasquez tossed a combined one-hitter, leading Lawrence Post 15 to a 2-0 shutout over Ashland Post 77 in the American Legion state title game at Fino Field in Milford.
Lawrence advances to the Northeast Regional Tournament, which begins on Wednesday at Fitton Field in Worcester.
“We survived last year and this year we’re thriving” Lawrence coach Julio Ramos said. “Excellence is what I saw on the mound. Miguel did an amazing job and same with Jairo Vasquez.”
A crafty southpaw, Matos kept the Ashland lineup off-balance for five innings with his fastball and sweeping curveball combination, inducing seven ground ball outs against one hit and no walks.
The Tournament MVP then turned the ball over to Vasquez, who completed the superb pitching performance by fanning four batters across the final two innings for the save.
“This is incredible,” Matos said. “This is all we wanted. It took a lot of sacrifice from coach Ramos and we have to thank him. All I had in my mind was one thing: dominant.”
Lawrence scored both its runs in the top of the fourth off Ashland starter Alex Almalfi. Luis Mejía and Christian Varona started the frame with consecutive walks and scored on a decisive two-run single by catcher Henry Cheko to centerfield.
Ramos paid out of his own pocket to revitalize the team. Under his guidance, they are now four wins away from advancing to the American Legion World Series.
“We have the right people in place and we do our best to have the kids be apart of a team,” Ramos said. “There’s so much and need and necessity and we do our best as a coaching staff to bring the kids so they don’t have to pay for baseball and can be part of the team.”
Matt Doherty can be reached at email@example.com.