The homestretch

Naugatuck battling for playoffs, Posts 194-25 winds up season

Post 17’s Jason Bradley catches a pop fly July 11 versus Prospect-Beacon Falls in Naugatuck. Post 17 won the game 18-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Post 17’s Jason Bradley catches a pop fly July 11 versus Prospect-Beacon Falls in Naugatuck. Post 17 won the game 18-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The American Legion baseball regular season is winding down this week with Naugatuck Post 17 still in the hunt for a playoff spot, while Prospect-Beacon Falls Posts 194-25 fell short of its goal to qualify for the state tournament.

Naugatuck solidified its position by taking four games last week improving to fourth place in the Zone 5 standings at 12-12. The top five teams in the zone advance to the postseason.

“We still have a few games to go and another one against Monroe who is right behind us in the standings,” Naugatuck head coach Rob Dibble said earlier this week. “They have about six games left, so if we go out and take care of business we are hoping to have a game on Sunday when the state tournament starts.”

Three games remain in the regular season for Post 17.

Post 17 will play Prospect-Beacon Falls at Hothckiss Field on Thursday. Naugatuck has a doubleheader on Friday against Monroe in the opener and Oxford in the nightcap at Rotary Field.

Post 17 is battling with Monroe for one of the last tournament spots. Naugatuck got the edge July 9 when Adam Tavares pitched a complete-game shutout in a 2-0 win. Naugatuck made it two in a row defeating Easton 5-1 July 10 with Spencer Dreher on the hill.

Last Friday Naugatuck made quick work of Posts 194-25 with an 18-0, mercy-rule win. Rick Plasky shutdown Prospect-Beacon Falls, virtually ending Posts 194-25’s goal of challenging for a spot in the postseason.

“We had a productive week with Adam Tavares giving us his best outing of the season against Monroe,” Dibble said. “John Dean hurt his hand on a throw in the Easton game, but he is getting better day by day and hopefully we will have him ready to pitch later this week.”

The Naugatuck bats have come to life heading down the stretch scoring 29 runs in two games. Post 17 took the first game of a doubleheader Saturday against Oxford by a margin of 11-9. Oxford came back to take the second game by an 8-4 margin and Naugatuck seemed to run out of gas on Sunday in a 7-1 loss to Oakville.

“We have been swinging the bats pretty good last week, but I think it just all caught up to us and we kind of ran out of gas,” Dibble added. “But we have our pitching lined up with Tavares, Plasky, Josh Aviles, Jason Bradley and Dean going for us. If we can get the bats going again we should be able to get into the postseason.”

Naugatuck had the bats going against Prospect-Beacon Falls last Friday. Post 17 erupted for four runs in the second inning to build a 5-0 advantage. Bradley got it going cranking a double to the gap. An error and a walk opened the door and Scott Sill dropped a sacrifice bunt out in front of the plate to send a run home. Chris (Lou) Anderson plated another run on a deep sacrifice fly to center.

Post 17 duplicated the outburst with another four-run rally in the third to build a comfortable 9-0 lead. Dean busted a double into the left field corner, and after Bradley drew a walk Kevin Mariano unloaded a two-run double down the left field line. Kyle Plasky got the last run across the dish with a solid single to right.

Naugatuck put the game into the win column with nine runs in the fourth. Posts 194-25, which has struggled to put runs on the board in July, saw another shutout loss end the team’s goal of a postseason spot.

Prospect-Beacon Falls’ Mike Gondola throws to first for an out July 11 versus Post 17 in Naugatuck. Prospect-Beacon Falls fell 18-0 to Post 17. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Prospect-Beacon Falls’ Mike Gondola throws to first for an out July 11 versus Post 17 in Naugatuck. Prospect-Beacon Falls fell 18-0 to Post 17. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

“We finished June with a good streak winning four of five games,” Posts 194-25 assistant coach Don Ensero said. “But the good news is we have all of our players coming back next year as we are still one of the youngest teams in the zone.”

Posts 194-25 came out hard this season and challenged every team they faced. Then came the streak of four wins in five games, and teams in Zone 5 knew they had a battle on their hands facing Prospect-Beacon Falls.

“Maybe teams took us lightly early on,” Prospect head coach Jeff Clarke said. “The second and third times we faced teams they started throwing their number one and number two pitcher at us, and that’s when we started to struggle putting runs on the board.”

Prospect-Beacon Falls closes out the season with home games versus Oakville Wednesday and Naugatuck Thursday, then a road game against Oxford Friday.

Although Posts 194-25 will miss the postseason, Prospect-Beacon Falls has established a solid pitching staff with Matt Spofford leading the way with four wins, along with Nate Clarke, Dylan Cummings, Anthony D’Agnone, Matt Wysocki and Kevin Gabinelli. Posts 194-25 also received consistent production from the bats of Matt Butterworth, Mike Gondola, Sam Merriman and Steve Kazalunas.

Clarke was also named the Zone 5 commissioner late in the season, as the influence of Posts 194-25 continues to grow in Connecticut American Legion baseball.

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