Idaho Falls Bandits headed to World Series championship in North Carolina
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IDAHO FALLS – A local youth baseball team is preparing to compete in the national championship.
The Idaho Falls Bandits, an American Legion baseball team consisting of 16 high school athletes, are fresh off a victory in the semi-finals against Mississippi. Head Coach Ryan Alexander tells EastIdahoNews.com the team is eagerly awaiting the championship game in Shelby, North Carolina on Tuesday.
“We’re awaiting the winner from the other bracket,” Alexander explains from his hotel room Monday afternoon. “We hope we represent our area well. We’re trying as best as we can.”
The Bandits will face off with a team from Iowa or Hawaii, depending on who wins the game Tuesday morning.
The team has been on the road for the last two weeks competing in the world series tournament after finishing the regular season with 41 wins and nine losses. The world series began with a three-team pool play. The Bandits were one of two teams in the pool to advance to the semifinals.
“In order to qualify for this, you have to win your district, state and regional championship,” Alexander says. “They take the top 8 from different regions of the country and that’s what makes up the pool to start with. Right now, we’re one of the top two teams in the country for American Legion Baseball and then tomorrow they play the deciding game (for the winner of the world series).”
This is the team’s second time competing in the world series championship. The Bandits won the American Legion World Series with a 5-3 victory over Fargo, North Dakota in 2019. Last year’s tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We went undefeated in the world series (in 2019) and then came through and played against the team that we first played in the tournament in the championship,” Alexander recalls. “This time we actually lost game two and found ourselves in the same game that we were at in 2019.”
There are six returning players from last season. Of those, one of them participated in the 2019 championship. Kai Howell is the Bandit’s centerfielder and he says being a part of two championships exceeds all his expectations.
“I always thought going into the world series in 2019 was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Then we end up coming this year and it’s been a blast,” he says.
The 19-year-old Bonneville High School graduate says they’ve been hitting really well and he’s feeling confident about a victory.
The American Legion is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization aimed at advocating patriotism across the U.S. According to its website, the nonprofit was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization and has since grown to include nearly 2 million members and 13,000 posts worldwide.
The baseball program is one of the nonprofit’s various activities available to youth. Alexander says there are between 3,400 and 3,800 teams nationwide.
Each of the Bandit’s players are selected from legion teams at each of the five high schools in Idaho Falls, says Alexander.
The championship game will kick off Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. mountain time in Shelby, North Carolina. It will be broadcast on ESPNU and online through the ESPNU app.
Alexander is proud of his team for getting to this point and he’s hoping for another championship victory.
“We appreciate the support we’ve been getting. We have a lot of people that have touched base with us on social media. Some people are organizing watch parties. We appreciate it and we hope we represent Idaho Falls well,” he says.