NAUGATUCK — For the past six seasons Naugatuck Post 17 has fielded teams on paper that could compete with the best competition in Zone 5. All the tools were there, the pitching, the fielding and the clutch hitting. What was missing? The players on a regular basis to give Post 17 a fighting chance.
Granted, early-season commitments like graduation, football camps and high school All-Star games can take a toll on the regular lineup. However, not having consistency in the lineup could have taken Post 17 out of the running before the race to the Zone title has even begun.
That doesn’t take away from the loyalty shown by several key veterans like sluggers Kevin Mariano, Josh Aviles, John Dean, Ricky Plasky and Mike D’Agnone, who have been there game after game. But having just nine or 10 of the 17 players on the roster show up for games has led to Naugatuck giving away more than its share of games so far this season.
“We have players playing out of position as a result of not being able to field our entire roster and when you are facing some of the top teams in the Zone they feed off of a situation like that,” Naugatuck head coach Rob Dibble said.
Naugatuck split a double-header last Wednesday with New Milford and was still in the thick of the Zone 5 race.
John Dean went five innings on the hill in game one. He left after five innings trailing by a 1-0 deficit. Adam Tavares went the final two innings as New Milford tacked on a pair of runs in the sixth. Post 17 was only able to manage just one run in a tough 3-1 setback.
In game two, Post 17 generated its highest run total of the season, putting 10 runs on the scoreboard. Rick Plasky went the distance and allowed one run in a 10-1 win. Jason Bradley and Dean contributed two hits and two RBIs to pace the offense as Post 17 scored in four straight innings.
Rick Plasky and Josh Aviles scored two runs each with Ethen Mester, Chris Anderson, Scott Sill, Tavares, Bradley and Dean crossing the plate for Post 17 as Naugatuck improved to 3-2 on the season.
On Saturday at Municipal Stadium Post 17 could only put nine players out there and one bench player as Waterbury mercy ruled Naugatuck by a 10-0 margin. Post 17 defeated Waterbury 2-1 earlier in the season.
Spencer Dreher was sailing along with a four-hitter trailing 2-0 when Waterbury erupted for five runs in the fifth. Thin on pitching Naugatuck allowed three more tallies in the sixth. Aviles and Mester got the only two hits of the game for Post 17.
“We just can’t put the team out there that we would like to,” Dibble said. “It’s all up to the kids and the commitment they are willing to bring. You can’t go out there and expect to compete with just 10 players game after game. It will take its toll sooner or later.”
Naugatuck dropped its third game in the last four on Sunday in a tough 6-4 loss to New Milford. Ricky Plasky was cruising along through four innings of shutout ball on just 36 pitches as Post 17 owned a 4-0 lead.
Aviles and Kyle Plasky had first-inning hits and stole bases to get into scoring position. Chris Anderson belted a two-run single to put Post 17 on the board. In the fourth Anderson was hit by a pitch and scored on a single from Dreher. A RBI single from Mike D’Agnone made it a 4-0 advantage.
Plasky lost the strike zone in the fifth, walking the bases loaded. The one error that Naugatuck made all game opened the door for two runs. When the inning was over New Milford had tacked on six runs to account for the 6-4 final margin.
The loss dropped Post 17 to 3-4 on the season.
“I’m optimistic that this group of kids can turn it around but it’s up to them to put in the commitment to make it happen,” Dibble said. “We have a huge series this week playing three games with the first place team 9-1 Bethel.
“We need at least two of those games to go in the win column. If we don’t have all hands on deck it will be very hard to dig out of this hole we created for ourselves. The outcome of this series will be an indication as to where the rest of the season is headed.”
Naugatuck dropped to 3-5 after a 7-6 loss to Bethel on Wednesday. Post 17 is scheduled to host a double-header on Thursday against Bethel with the first game beginning at 5:45 p.m. This weekend Naugatuck will be at Easton on Saturday and will take on Oakville on Sunday at 12 p.m. at Pomperaug High School.