ALWS Game 3: Grand slam powers Texas to win

(submitted by Richard Walker)

League City (Tex.) Post 554 endured years of heartbreak before advancing to its first American Legion World Series this season.

But after Thursday’s 12-2 victory over Camden (S.C.) in its ALWS debut, Post 554 is a Friday afternoon win away from Monday’s semifinals.

“I’m glad with how the boys reacted and played the game the way they did,” League City head coach Ronnie Oliver said. “Nothing seems to be bothering them. If we can keep that mindset, we’ll be alright.”

League City and Troy (Ala.) Post 70 each were victorious in Stars Division pool play on Thursday and don’t play each other until Sunday. League City meets Shrewsbury (Mass.) Post 397 at 4 p.m. Friday, and Troy plays Camden at 7 p.m. The top two finishers in each division advance to the semifinals.

League City and Troy will play at 1 p.m. Sunday.

It’s quite the accomplishment for the Post 554 team that until Sunday’s dramatic Western Regional championship had finished as a regional runner-up five times since 1996 to finish one win shy of the ALWS each time.

But League City won two games on Sunday, including a 3-2 championship game victory over Petaluma (Calif.) Post 28, by scoring three times in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Clearly, that momentum carried over to League City’s ALWS debut.

Post 554 banged out 12 hits and took advantage of six walks, two hit batters and one fielding error to win by the 10-run mercy rule in five innings.

Travis Bragg (2 doubles, 1 RBI), Albert Garza (2 hits, double, 3 RBIs) and Wyatt Easter (grand slam home run) sparked the offense that scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning and effectively erased any doubt about the game’s outcome with a 10-run third. Easter’s grand slam highlighted the big inning.

Starter Brandon Vassallo went 4 2-3 innings for the win.

“The boys came out and swung the bats like they’re capable of and we got some breaks and took advantage of them,” Oliver said. “That’s what wins ballgames.”

Oliver, a 36-year American Legion Baseball coach, had previously guided Texas City, Tex., to a fifth-place tie in the 2000 ALWS at Alton, Ill., before leaving there to coach League City since 2005.

Camden (22-6), also playing in its first ALWS, was led by Brandon Gibbs (2 hits, double), Zane Cato (double, 2 RBIs) and Jamari Harris (1 hit).