Shrewsbury forces rematch for American Legion zone championship

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Shrewsbury forces rematch for American Legion zone championship
Shrewsbury Post 397’s Colby Coghlin awaits the pitch. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

LEOMINSTER – Shrewsbury Post 397 was all but defeated.

Down to their last out, and down 5-2 with few signs of life offensively, Deegan Miller made weak contact and dribbled the ball to second base for what seemed like an ordinary, routine grounder. By some miracle, the Leominster Post 151 second baseman fumbled the ball, allowing Miller to reach safely and loading the bases. 

After the next batter was hit by a pitch, scoring one run, Shrewsbury capitalized on the error. Ryan Walton’s three-RBI, bases-clearing, go-ahead triple put Post 397 ahead 6-5, forcing a rematch between the two teams to decide the American Legion Massachusetts Zone 4 champion.   

“I never say die, even when we make a mistake,” Shrewsbury coach Frank Vaccaro said after the game. “You’ve got to keep playing. It takes three outs in that last inning.”

Shrewsbury struck first. Back-to-back doubles, one single, and James Benestad’s sacrifice fly put Post 397 ahead 2-0 in the top of the second inning. After that point, the Shrewsbury bats quieted down, stalled by Leominster’s relief pitcher Trevor Robichaud. The team wouldn’t come close to scoring again until the seventh inning.

Leominster came roaring back to take the lead. In the fourth, Thomas Rupp homered, cutting the score to 2-1. In the fifth, the Post 151 offense was rolling. Five batters reached base before Shrewsbury recorded the inning’s first out, and Leominster eventually went up 5-2. 

Shrewsbury forces rematch for American Legion zone championship
Tedy Cove got the ball for Shrewsbury Post 397. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

After already playing earlier in the day – defeating Hudson Post 100 8-3 to earn the right to play Leominster – Vaccaro emptied his bench. Fourteen players made appearances for Shrewsbury in this matchup. Three different Shrewsbury relievers contributed one inning of relief to finish the game.

“It was a great team win,” Vaccaro said. “This is what you work for. The dance – the last dance – we’re here.” 

The double-elimination zone playoffs create an interesting scenario: Shrewsbury will compete against Leominster again for the American Legion Massachusetts Zone 4 championship. Had Leominster – who hadn’t lost in the playoffs until they were defeated by Post 397 – won their initial matchup with Shrewsbury, they would’ve been champions. 

The two teams will meet at Doyle Field today, July 20, at 6:30 p.m. to decide who will become the zone champion. The Community Advocate will have coverage of this matchup.

“[Leominster is] not going to die – they’re not going to lie down for us – so we have to play our hearts out again. I mean, that game could have gone either way – we basically were beaten,” said Vaccaro.

“If you don’t quit, just like in life, good things happen,” he said.

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