Frantic finish leads to tourney

NAUGATUCK — Post 17’s goal for the season was to qualify for the American Legion state tournament, a feat that Naugatuck fell one win short of accomplishing last year.

Naugatuck didn’t let the opportunity pass by this year.

Under first year head coach Robert Swierbitowicz, Post 17 showed its mettle. Naugatuck finished an up-and-down regular season with an 11-12 record and showed toughness by edging out Oakville for the fifth and final spot in Zone 5 to make the tournament.

“We had to play nine games in seven days making it a long last week of the regular season,” said Swierbitowicz, who along with assistant coaches Paul D’Agnone and Gabe Torok guided Post 17 back to the postseason. “Everyone pitched in to get us there. These kids were down and out at times during the season, but when it mattered they came together and made it happen.”

The game Naugatuck needed to win came against Oakville July 13 as the two teams were in a battle for the last spot. Post 17 came out on top, 3-0, with Shane Swierbitowicz throwing his third shutout of the season to improve to 5-2 on the hill.

“I just told the kids before the game, ‘It’s baseball, just go out and play the game,’” coach Swierbitowicz said.

Naugatuck struck early and erupted for three runs. Josh Aviles had a double and a triple and scored a run from the top spot in the lineup. Corey Plasky drove in a run and scored, and Jarrett Allen added an RBI to score Swierbitowicz.

The victory put Naugatuck a half a game ahead of Oakville in the standings and into the state tournament.

Post 17 drew second-seeded Bethel (19-5) on Saturday in the opening game of the tournament and came within inches of advancing. The season ended Saturday for Post 17 in a heart-wrenching 1-0 loss.

Matt Whitney went 4 2/3 innings surrendering just one run to give Post 17 every chance to advance. But the offense couldn’t get on track. Allen and Swierbitowicz had the only hits for Naugatuck.

“Matt pitched last week against Bethel in a game we lost 3-1,” Swierbitowicz said “He went six innings and left with the score tied 1-1. He did such a good job and had five days rest I decided to go with him again, and he pitched another great game for us giving us a chance to win. We just couldn’t provide him with any offense.”

Post 17 was led at the plate this season by Aviles, who had 21 hits and 16 runs with a batting average of .375. Kyle Torok was second on the team with 18 hits and also batted .375.

Plasky led the team in RBIs with eight on 17 hits and batted .283. Steve Marinaro added 16 hits with seven runs scored and batted .286. Swierbitowicz led the team on the mound with a stingy 0.95 ERA. Swierbitowicz added 17 hits and seven RBI at the plate while batting .370.

“We are losing a few key guys like Aviles and Jason Bradley along with Whitney,” Swierbitowicz said. “But I’m pretty excited to be getting Torok back as he had several key hits and will be a leader next season. If Matt Butterworth comes back he will be another leader on the team.

“But we have had several of the younger guys step up and have a season for us and I’m looking forward to seeing them progress next year. Players like Plasky, Marinaro and Allen can take us to the next level.”

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