NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck baseball team’s loss in the Naugatuck Valley League quarterfinals Tuesday was a bitter pill to swallow after a season filled with so much promise.
It all came to a crashing halt at Rotary Field when No. 4 Naugatuck was ousted by No. 5 Ansonia 3-2. Greyhounds starting pitcher Rick Plasky deserved a better fate as he kept his team in the game, scattering eight hits and striking out two in a complete-game effort.
“We came out here maybe not as focused as we should have been,” Plasky said. “We left a few opportunities on the base paths and we didn’t make the adjustment to the Ansonia pitcher (Corey Dzienkiewicz), who we hit pretty hard the first time we faced him.”
There was also an issue with the mound, which was compromised by another league in town, as the park department came out to try to remedy the issue. The condition of the mound early on may have caused both pitchers to labor through the first few innings, but Plasky wasn’t about to lean on that excuse.
“There was a problem with the mound where you couldn’t plant your feet properly and you would slide when you finished your windup,” Plasky said. “But that had nothing to do with the early runs that scored.”
Ansonia caught a break in the first inning when Plasky lost his footing on a full count and walked Darwin Elias with two outs. Naugatuck head coach Tom Deller and assistant coach Ron Plasky emerged from the dugout as it appeared the pitcher injured himself.
Sean Bonaparte and Matt Simon followed with singles to plate the first run of the game as the Chargers jumped on top, 1-0. Dzienkiewicz took the hill for the Chargers and continually kicked at the mound, trying to find a proper landing spot.
Naugatuck got something going in its half of the first when Josh Aviles ripped a single up the middle and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Plasky. Catcher John Dean drew a walk and Adam Tavares flied deep to left for the second out of the inning.
Dzienkiewicz was almost out of the woods when his defense failed him as Jason Bradley sent one under the shortstop’s glove, sending Aviles home with the tying run.
“They hit me pretty hard the last time I faced them,” Dzienkiewicz said. “I just tried to mix up my locations and have my defense make the plays. We did allow one run on an error but for the most part they got the job done. Naugatuck is a very good hitting team.”
The Chargers threatened to take this one off the hinges in the second, loading the bases on three one-out singles. Kyle Plasky knocked down a shot in the hole, stuck with it and threw out the runner by a step.
On the play Jaden Tinney came home with the run to put Ansonia back on top 2-1 as the runners advanced to second and third. Elias sent one to the fence in left field only to have Kyle Torok chase it down and haul it in with his back to the plate to end the threat.
Kevin Mariano led off the bottom of the second for the ‘Hounds by planting one at the base of the fence in center for a double. Jovanni Torres reached base on a throwing error by the shortstop but was thrown out trying to stretch it into two bases.
With Mariano on third, Aviles hit a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game at 2-2 entering the third inning. Both pitchers settled down from that point on and the defenses played errorless ball the rest of the way.
Naugatuck wasted singles by Spencer Dreher and Torres in the fourth when Ansonia pulled off a double play. The Chargers cashed in with a two-out rally in the fifth to take the lead for good. Elias hit a two-out single, stole second and came home on a single from Bonaparte to give the Chargers a 3-2 advantage.
Rick Plasky struck out two batters in the sixth to keep the Chargers in check, then dealt a 6-4-3 double-play ball in the seventh before he notched the Greyhounds’ lone hit in the bottom of the seventh.
Naugy (15-6) will await its draw in the Class LL state tournament, where the ‘Hounds will likely be the No. 4 seed.