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Local team to play for American Legion title

When school resumed in the Albuquerque area on Monday, a group of New Mexican kids called in absent from Northern California. And they won’t be back to class for a while, for that matter.

That’s because the Post 13 baseball team, which won the Western Region title in Fairfield, Calif., over the weekend, is on the way Tuesday to Shelby, N.C., to play in the American Legion World Series.

It is the first team from New Mexico to qualify for the American Legion World Series, says veteran American Legion manager Daniel Gonzales Sr.

“We’ve had some really strong teams through the years. These guys are just a different group of guys,” Gonzales said Monday in a phone interview with the Journal. “Nobody’s outstanding, everybody’s real humble, plays hard, and they don’t give up.”

This is Gonzales’ 31st year coaching Legion ball, which has players up to age 19. He had contemplated retiring last year. But he held on and is along for the ride with son Daniel Jr., and grandson Andrew. They and Eddie Marin coach the team. Post 13 players have come from Cleveland, Rio Grande, Centennial, Atrisco Heritage, Sandia and Hope Christian high schools.

Post 13 opens play Thursday against Festus, Mo., Post 253 at 11 a.m. MT, with right-hander Javier Almager, recently of Atrisco Heritage, likely to start. The game will stream on Other pool games for Post 13 on Friday (vs. Danville, Ill., 2 p.m.) and Saturday (vs. Destrehan, La., 5:30 p.m.) also will stream and air on ESPNU.

The winners and runners-up of the two four-team pools advance to Monday’s semifinals. The championship game is set for Tuesday.

Post 13 went 30-2 this summer, losing an early matchup to a team from Rio Rancho and the Region opener last week to Henderson, Nev.

Then Post 13 went on a roll while facing elimination. A win over the Utah state champs preceded a 5-4 victory over host Fairfield, as Cleveland High’s Roy Lee Jennings went 4-for-4 and had the walkoff hit.

Post 13 then got even with Henderson, winning 12-8 after trailing 6-2, and then needed two Sunday wins for the title.

The first came over Petaluma, Calif., 6-5, with two runs in the seventh (and final) inning to move on. In the final against Honolulu, Ricky Apodaca’s three-run double snapped a 3-3 tie on the way to a 6-3 win.

The Post 13 travel party is scheduled to fly out of Sacramento at 6 a.m. PT Tuesday, connect in Phoenix, and then fly to Charlotte, N.C., before the 51-mile drive west to Shelby. American Legion sponsors and funds the travel for all players and two coaches. Post 13 is seeking help to defray the costs for its other two coaches.

As for the first week of school? “Everybody has had to call in to make arrangements with teachers and professors to get work sent to them,” Gonzales said. “But … some of the principals said, ‘what a great opportunity. Don’t worry, you guys are good.'”

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