Baseball: Brooklawn vies for American Legion World Series title


By Phil Anastasia

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Baseball is a funny game.

Brooklawn manager Dennis Barth grew up in the sport. He knows that as well as anybody.

Barth knows that Brooklawn's best teams haven't always managed the best results in the World Series. That's the way it goes in this here sport -- there's a lot of factors involved in the quest for a championship.

Brooklawn opens play in the American Legion World Series Friday at 5 p.m. vs. Waipahu, Hawaii, in Shelby, N.C.

Right-hander Mike Shawaryn (pictured), a recent Gloucester Catholic graduate and Maryland recruit, is expected to start the first game in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament for Brooklawn.

The Brookers have rising GC junior John Murphy ready for Game 2 and rising GC sophomore Tyler Mondile set for Game 3 -- unless Barth uses either of those in relief. The manager has enough pitching to run a good arm out there all through the tournament, which ends Tuesday.

Brooklawn also has a hot lineup, led by regional MVP Nick Cieri (Rancocas Valley) as well as Jon Gonzales (Winslow), Franny Kinsey (GC), Pete Farlow (GC), Anthony Harold (GC) and Sean Breen (GC).

But Barth is quick to note, "Our best teams haven't always done the best in this tournament."

Brooklawn won the World Series in 1991 and 2001. Those might not have been two best teams in the 62-year history of the program but they are the two most accomplished and celebrated -- and rightfully so.

This year's team is young. This is Brooklawn's third straight trip to the World Series but only Shawaryn and LHP Dan Higgins are veterans of all three visits.

Those two and Murphy were members of last year's team, which finished second.

But the relative inexperience hasn't been a factor thus far in the tournament, as Brooklawn is 13-0 in post-season play. overall, the Brookers have won 17 games in a row.

"This whole organization is not about rebuilding," Kinsey said after the regional title game Monday in Camden. "We call it reloading."

On paper, this Brooklawn team might not appear as strong as some past teams.

But Barth knows the best on-paper team doesn't always win, especially not in baseball. Brooklawn is hot, and the team appears to be catching a break in its opener -- Hawaii is a talented team, but it played twice on Monday in the West Regional, likely depleting its pitching.

Brooklawn assistant coach Mike Rucci, the head coach at Gloucester Catholic, likes to point out that the 2000 Brooklawn team was loaded with players from a GC team that went 33-1 and was ranked No. 1 in the nation.

That team didn't win the World Series.

But the 2001 team, with Rucci at catcher and most of the top players from the 2000 team gone off to college, won the World Series title in Yakima, Wash.

"We had great chemistry and got hot at the right time," Rucci said.

Brooklawn enters the World Series as a scorching hot team.

They might be young and relatively inexperienced -- a year away, some might say.

But they believe their time is now and they might just be right.

-- Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter