Baseball: Era ends with Brooklawn loss


Brooklawn's loss in the championship game of the American Legion World Series on Wednesday morning marked the end of a glorious era in local baseball history.

The 4-0 loss to a team from New Orleans in a game that started around 11 p.m. Tuesday means the Brookers came up just short of their ultimate goal: Winning the third World Series title in the illustrious 51-year history of the program.

It also marked the end of the American Legion careers of such standout Brooklawn players as the Brown twins, Cody and Casey, along with Steve Wilgus, Jeff Paglione, Brett Tenuto and Joe Brooks, among others.

Those guys were the nucleus of Brooklawn and Gloucester Catholic teams that won three legion state titles, three high school state titles and reached two American Legion World Series in the last three summers.

It was one of the most accomplished eras in the history of both Brooklawn and Gloucester Catholic -- teams that are synonymous with each other, and with baseball excellence.

Teams are not supposed win nearly 90 percent of games in baseball. The nature of the sport works against that.

And anybody who questions GC's schedule -- although that beat-down of Don Bosco Prep in the NP A state final in June should have muffled those murmurs -- must acknowledge that Brooklawn plays high-level competition on a nightly basis in its league, and then in the district, state and region tournaments.

But these guys won nearly nine of every 10 games for six seasons -- three springs for GC and three summers for Brooklawn. They played the kind of grinding, tenacious, fundamentally-sound baseball that is the hallmark of GC/Brooklawn coach Dennis Barth, who has followed in the footsteps of his father, legendary Brooklawn founder Joe Barth.

This Brooklawn team went 59-5 and reached the title game. For the many players -- including Pat Kane, John Brue and Robbie Alessandrine -- who also were members of Gloucester Catholic's Non-Public A state title team in the spring, those guys went 87-9 from early April to late August.

Last week, several players talked about the "unfinished business" of winning the ALWS title since Brooklawn also had made the series in 2011.

This group came close, winning its first two games to reach the winner's bracket final before losing 6-5 to New Orleans in a game shortened to seven innings by rain.

Brooklawn battled back to win two games, getting a complete-game masterpiece from Cody Brown and a big three-run double from Kane earlier Tuesday to reach the title game.

New Orleans pitcher Emerson Gibbs was terrific in the championship game. Hat's off to him. He was named the tournament's Player of the Year.

Tenuto won the tournament's Sportsmanship Award.

Last week at the team's headquarters at Sportz Central in Bellmawr, Cody Brown talked about playing his final games with a group that had played nearly 300 games together over the three spring/summer seasons, and won nearly 270 of them.

"I don't think about this being the end because it's never been that way," Brown said. "I always knew I was going to come back and play with these guys again."

That era ended in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, on a wet, shiny field in Shelby, N.C.

-- Phil Anastasia