American Legion’s return to the playing field started with 13 teams in the revived circuit sponsored by American Legion District 22. It ended with a four-team area playoff tournament July 17-19 at Helix High School.
It was the first on-field action locally in the 19U youth baseball league since 1985.
The top two teams in the regular season standings from the Navy Division and Marine Division participated in the double-elimination tourney.
The Patrick Henry Trojans (Post 416) and Santana Sea Knights (Post 258) represented the Navy Division while the Helix Hornets (Post 416) and the Coronado Seals (Squadron 460) represented the Marine Division.
The top-seeded Trojans wound up winning the tournament by winning all three of their games in the double-elimination format.
Patrick Henry coach Sheldon Watkins termed the American Legion summer championship an emotionally-satisfying reward for his squad, which was forced to play all 27 of its high school games — and 14 of its American Legion games — on the road due to ongoing on-campus construction.
The team will now continue its season in the American Legion state playoffs.
“We finished 13-1, we didn’t have a home field due to construction on campus, so it was a big boost for our program because we want to change the culture here,” Watkins explained. “To go to the state playoffs with a young team is a big boost for us.”
The Trojans, with a 10-1 regular season record, received the top seed in the playoffs while the Hornets, with an 11-4 regular season slate, received the No. 2 seed, followed by the Sea Knights (third seed) and Seals (fourth seed).
In opening round game on July 17, the Trojans topped the Seals, 8-1, while the Sea Knights out-scored the Hornets 15-12.
The second day of competition featured a winners bracket game between the Trojans and Sea Knights (won 7-6 by the Trojans in 11 innings) and an elimination game between the Hornets and Seals (won 6-4 by the Seals).
The final day opened with a second elimination game pitting the Sea Knights and Seals, which the Coronado team captured, 10-2, to advance to the ensuing championship game against the Trojans.
The Trojans defeated the Seals, 7-5, to capture the 2018 district championship.
Both teams will now represent the district in the eight-team state playoff tournament July 26-29 in Yountville in Northern California.
Andrew McAlpin earned the win on the mound in the opening-round win over the Seals; he hit a walk-off grand slam to power the Trojans past the Sea Knights in the memorable 11-inning matchup in the semifinals.
In the latter game, both teams were scoreless through 10 innings before the Sea Knights racked up six runs in the top of the 11th inning. The Trojans scored seven runs in the bottom of the frame to advance to the championship game.
Jake Lowrey hit a two-run home run to get the offense rolling in the bottom of the 11th. McAlpin hit his grand slam with the Trojans trailing 6-3.
Kyle Wilsie earned credit for the win.
Patrick Henry scored six runs in the third inning to nose past the Seals in the teams’ finals rematch. McAlpin and Jonathan Marshall each delivered key hits for the Trojans.
Max Shabestari pitched the final out to clinch the the district championship victory. Ben Manis received credit for the win.
Garrett McKee and Ryan Preciado each went two-for-three in the opening round playoff win over Coronado.
The Trojans opened the season with a 20-3 victory against the National City Seahawks (Post 255) at Sweetwater High School on June 12 and reeled off four more lopsided wins to quickly establish themselves as one of the favorites to win this season’s title with a perfect 5-0 start.
The Trojans’ lone loss was an 8-1 setback to the Hornets on June 26.
The District 22 champions’ roster also included the following players: Dante Juliano, Fernando Lozano, Tomas Gagliano, Edward Demos, Max Jones, Ryan Miller, Quinn Roelofs, Mateo Medina, Kenny Peak and Jack Powell.
Patrick Henry finished the high school season 10-17 overall, including a 6-6 showing in City Conference Eastern League competition. The Patriots did not qualify for the San Diego Section playoffs.
McAlpin, an incoming senior, finished 3-5 with a 4.77 earned-run average during the high school regular season.
The bar has been clearly been set for the 2019 high school season.
Other teams in the American Legion circuit will follow in the Trojans’ footsteps for the next prep campaign as summer play proves invaluable in player development.
The Seahawks finished 1-8 in their inaugural American Legion season while the Mater Dei Crusaders, the South County’s second entry in the resurrected circuit, finished 2-7-1.
Peter-Rolf Ohnstad, who serves as the District 22 commissioner, said he had hoped to field just two teams for the league’s 2018 revival season but was quickly swamped with requests for membership.
American Legion baseball had been a mainstay for many of the San Diego Section’s current high school coaches while growing up. Many Major League Baseball players, including the Padres’ Wil Myers and former Padres legend Randy Jones, played American Legion baseball as youths.
In fact, the revived San Diego league was the largest this season in California with its 13 teams.
Ohnstad was interviewed on KUSI-TV’s live coverage of the championship game, noting the league’s absence had been duly noted several years ago.
“The district commander and I were talking about the importance of the American Legion to youth, Americanism and everything else,” Ohnstad told the television audience. “We looked and said where was American Legion baseball because … our obligation as veterans is to support youth.”
Jones, who played American Legion baseball while growing up in Orange County, was also interviewed by KUSI-TV. He called playing in the league a “special” time.
“They’re chasing the dream like we all did at that age,” he said.
San Diego Post 492 won the American Legion World Series national championship in 1954. Appropriately, Billy Capps — the 1954 American Legion Player of the Year — threw out the first pitch for this year’s playoff tournament.
Capps, now in his early 80s, noted there were 10 teams in the San Diego County circuit then.
American Legion Post 416 sponsored three teams in this season’s District 22 lineup – the Trojans and Hornets along with the Santa Fe Christian Buckeyes.
The post’s Facebook site was filled with congratulatory messages following the playoff tournament.
Judy Leondardi posted, “Thanks to the hard work, dedication and perseverance of a few Legionaries who saw the vision of bringing back The American Legion Baseball to San Diego; District 22 hosted a season filled with great teams, amazing players and an incredible three-day tournament inn which the Coronado Seals and Patrick Henry earned their place to compete in the state tournament …”
American Legion Baseball
District 22 Standings
(Final Regular Season)
x-Sea Knights 8-3-0
Regular Season Schedule
Games of June 12:
Trojans 20, Seahawks 3
Patriots 5, Hawkeyes 1
Sea Knights 12, Buckeyes 4
Tomcats 0, Vigilantes 0
Hornets 5, Skyhawks 2
Games of June 13:
Hornets 8, Crusaders 4
Trojans 16, Skyhawks 4
Games of June 14:
Seahawks 7, Panthers 0
Skyhawks 4, Crusaders 3
Trojans 14, Buckeyes 4
Patriots 15, Tomcats 5
Sea Knights 10, Vigilantes 5
Seals 6, Hornets 0
Games of June 19:
Panthers 5, Seahawks 0
Trojans 8, Crusaders 4
Patriots 6, Hornets 5
Sea Knights 7, Hawkeyes 1
Vigilantes 3, Seals 2
Skyhawks 4, Buckeyes 1
Games of June 20:
Vigilantes 7, Crusaders 1
Hornets 4, Hawkeyes 1
Hornets 9, Tomcats 0
Games of June 21:
Sea Knights 14, Hornets 2
Patriots 9, Skyhawks 0
Trojans 14, Vigilantes 3
Seals 12, Tomcats 5
Panthers 7, Crusaders 2
Hawkeyes 17 Seahawks 3
Games of June 22:
Crusaders 7, Buckeyes 7
Games of June 25:
Skyhawks 10, Vigilantes 9
Games of June 26:
Seals 10, Crusaders 1
Hornets 12, Skyhawks 2
Patriots 12, Hawkeyes 3
Hornets 8, Trojans 1
Sea Knights 12, Tomcats 1
Games of June 27:
Hornets 14, Sea Knights 1
Hornets 12, Tomcats 8
Games of June 28:
Sea Knignts 9, Hawkeyes 3
Crusaders 7, Buckeyes 0
Panthers 6, Tomcats 3
Trojans 7, Patriots 0
Seals 15, Seahawks 2
Games of June 30:
Patriots 17, Skyhawks 2
Games of July 3:
Vigilantes 14, Crusaders 11
Panthers 7, Seahawks 0
Trojans 11, Tomcats 1
Sea Knights 9, Buckeyes 2
Games of July 9:
Panthers 13, Seahawks 1
Games of July 10:
Buckeyes 7, Panthers 0
Skyhawks 5, Hawkeyes 1
Sea Knights 3, Patriots 0
Trojans 9, Seals 3
Crusaders 6, Tomcats 2
Vigilantes 11, Seahawks 0
Games of July 11:
Hornets 6, Sea Knights 1
Hornets 6, Vigilantes 1
Trojans 6, Skyhawks 3
Games of July 12:
Hornets 7, Buckeyes 0
Skyhawks at Crusaders, no report
Trojans 6, SeaKnights 4
Tomcats 6, Seahawks 0
Vigilantes 3, Panthers 1
Seals 9, Patriots 4
District 22 Double-Elimination
Area Playoff Tournament
(July 17-19 at Helix High School)
Games of July 17:
Trojans 8, Seals 1
Sea Knights 15, Hornets 12
Games of July 18:
Trojans 7, Sea Knights 6 (11 innings0
Seals 6, Hornets 4
Games of July 19:
Seals 10, Sea Knights 2 (challenger bracket final)
Trojans 7, Seals 5 (championship game)
Note: Trojans, Seals advance to eight-team state tournament July 26-29 in Yountville.