SJ Sports: American Legion Baseball
Two teams that compete in the same league are now playing for a national championship. In an amazing development, of the eight teams that have earned a berth in the American Legion baseball World Series, two of them, or 25 percent, hail from South Jersey.
Both Haddon Heights and West Deptford have qualified for the World Series, which begins Friday in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Each team had to win regional championships to advance. Heights captured the Mid-Atlantic Regional in Newburgh, New York. In the tournament, Heights went 5-0, capped by a 16-0 championship win over host Newburgh.
West Deptford earned a berth in the regionals by finishing second in the New Jersey state tournament, losing 5-2 to Haddon Heights.
During the Northeast Regional in Torrington, Connecticut, West Deptford went 4-1 and defeated Essex, Vermont, 6-1, in Monday’s championship game.
Haddon Heights and West Deptford are in different brackets which means they can’t meet until the semifinals at the earliest in the World Series.
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In the tournament, the teams are grouped into two four-team brackets. The teams in each bracket play each other the first three days. The top two teams from each bracket then advance to the semifinals, which will be August 25. The championship is August 26.
American Legion is for baseball players 19-and-under. Both West Deptford and Haddon Heights play in the Camden County American Legion League. Haddon Heights and West Deptford were among four teams from the league to earn spots in the eight-team state tournament. Brooklawn and Washington Township were the others.
Many have called the Camden County League, which consists of players from Camden, Gloucester and Burlington Counties, to be among the best in the country. The fact that two of its teams have earned a berth in the World Series, proves this point.
Both Heights and West Deptford have players from a number of different high schools. Heights draws from Paul VI, Haddonfield, Pennsauken, Haddon Heights, Cherry Hill West and Camden Catholic. West Deptford has players from Kingswy, West Deptford, Paulsboro and Pennsville. Both teams had outstanding pitching. Andrew Bailey, a Paul VI graduate and sophomore-to-be at Wagner, went 2-0 for Haddon Heights in the regionals. John Humphreys, who will be a senior at Pennsville, went 2-0 for West Deptford.
The two South Jersey teams hope to duplicate the success of another league member Brooklawn, which won the 2001 American Legion World Series. Brooklawn also captured the 1991 World Series title.
Both Heights and West Deptford opened their tournaments by winning the first two games, which virtually assures a berth in the semifinals. West Deptford beat Portland, Maine, 7-4 and Torrington, Connecticut, 8-6 before falling to Essex, Vermont, 4-2. In the semifinal, West Deptford beat Simsbury, Connecticut, 8-1, before its championship win.
Haddon Heights opened with a 16-0 win over Moundsville, West Virginia, before beating Richmond, Virginia, 9-8, Endicott, New York, 9-4 and Gaithersburg, Maryland, 11-8, in a game that Heights trailed 7-1 after five innings.
Heights had no problem in the championship game and now two neighbors hope to hook up next in Oklahoma.
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Author: Marc Narducci
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