NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck American Legion baseball team hasn’t contended for a Zone 5 title in the last six seasons, last winning the zone in 2007 after a 22-5 season. What makes this summer so hopeful for the local nine is the fact that the Naugatuck High squad reached the CIAC Class LL quarterfinals for the first time since 2000.
It certainly doesn’t hurt their chances that they also have a solid group of younger players that won the Junior Legion Zone 5 title last season with a 20-2 record. All that talent base added to last year’s veterans gives Naugy all the tools in the shed for a run at the Zone 5 title this summer.
“It’s a tough season playing 28 games in a span of six weeks,” Naugatuck head coach Rob Dibble said. “So it remains to be seen how these younger guys respond moving up to the senior division. We had a nice win against a very good Waterbury team and then we got mercy-ruled by Oakville, so we need to be consistent and focused for every game.”
Dibble thinks if the consistency comes, his squad can be among the best in the zone.
“I think we will be competitive and we have a good shot at making the state tournament based on the success they’ve had over the past high school season,” Dibble said. “But there are a few teams to contend with in the zone. Oakville is the team to beat and you can’t count out Monroe as Masuk made it to the state finals during the high school season.”
Post 17 has an equal balance of pitching, defense and hitting, and along with those three key ingredients they have depth, the kind that will get through the grind over the hot days of July.
Naugatuck has a stable of pitchers that have experience led by Ricky Plasky, who led the Greyhounds with 13 appearances racking up a 4-2 record and a stingy 1.91 ERA. Spencer Dreher, John Dean and Adam Tavares will take their turn on the hill along with Joshua Aviles, Chris Anderson and Chris Sheedy, with Ethan Mester and Evan Pelliccia slated for duty out of the bullpen.
“Your pitching is only as good as the defense that backs it up,” assistant coach Paul D’Agnone said. “We have a solid catcher behind the plate in Dean and we are strong up the middle. With Jason Bradley at shortstop and Kyle Plasky at second base, that is one of the best if not the best double-play combination in the zone. We also have a lot of quality depth, something we haven’t had in a while.”
That depth showed itself on Tuesday at Hotchkiss Field in Prospect as shortstop Scott Sill had five assists and two putouts to help Aviles pitch a complete-game 5-2 win over Prospect-Beacon Falls.
Dreher unloaded a two-run double with the bases loaded in the first inning to plate Sill and Dean after Aviles led off with a single and came around to score on an error. The three-run uprising was all Post 17 needed, but it added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth on Dean’s triple and Kevin Mariano’s single.
“These guys have been together for quite a few years,” assistant coach Greg Dean said. “If they stay aggressive at the plate and remain focused I feel we have enough bats in the lineup to back up our pitching and defense. They all know how to put the ball in play and have been doing it long enough to know the game situations. If we have to we can play small ball. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to win. With speed on the bases from Josh Aviles and Kyle Plasky we have the ability to put pressure on defenses but we also have guys who can drive the ball.”
Mike D’Agnone and Matt Whitney add to the team’s depth in the infield with Kyle Pyshna and Kyle Torok adding to the outfield corps.
Kyle Plasky led the Greyhounds in hits and batted .391, and Aviles led the team in runs (25) while batting .338. They will be at the top of the order, and with both batters having 14 stolen bases for the high school season, Post 17 has two ideal table setters. Dean also hit .364 during the high school year and Tavares batted .349 with a team-leading 17 RBI.
Post 17 hosts a doubleheader against New Milford on Wednesday before visiting Municipal Stadium in Waterbury on Saturday for an 11 a.m. game versus Post 1.