NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck American Legion Post 17 baseball team heads into the homestretch of the season smack in the middle of a logjam for the final spots to qualify for the postseason tournament.
As of Wednesday morning, Waterbury (13-1) and Bethel (14-2) led Zone 5 with Oxford (11-4) holding down third place. There is a three-way dogfight for the final two spots among Monroe (7-6), Oakville (10-9) and Naugatuck (6-7). The tournament is scheduled to start July 16.
“Waterbury and Bethel are the teams to beat in the Zone,” Post 17 head coach Robert Swierbitowicz said. “We control our own destiny with 10 games in the next 10 days.
“I thought we played well against Oxford and we are competitive against Oakville. It all comes down to pitching.”
Post 17 got all the pitching it needed in a 6-0 win at Oxford June 30. Shane Swierbitowicz spun a two-hitter through six innings and Kyle Torok pitched a scoreless seventh inning to complete the shutout.
“Shane has been a workhorse for us,” coach Swierbitowicz said. “He had only one hiccup all season against Monroe when he had trouble getting out of the first inning. Outside of that he has been very consistent.”
Naugatuck came right out and took control of the game with three runs in the first inning. A single run in the fourth and a pair of runs in the sixth completed the scoring for Post 17.
Josh Aviles had two hits, scored two runs and drove in a run to lead the offensive attack. Torok had a double, scored a run and added an RBI. Jarrett Allen and Swierbitowicz delivered RBI hits.
Will McDonald had two hits and scored a run. Steve Mariano and Zach Royka had a hit and a run scored, and David Verrilli added a hit.
On June 29, Naugatuck was left stranded in a 5-4 loss to Oakville. Matt Whitney got the nod on the hill and went three innings before leaving with the score tied at 2-2.
Post 17 missed some early opportunities to take over the game as Aviles and Robert Stach got thrown out at the plate in the first and second innings. What did Naugatuck in was stranding potential runs at third base in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
Oakville finally took advantage of its chances and scored two runs in the sixth to tie the game at 4-4, and then scored in the bottom of the seventh for the 5-4 walk-off win.
Aviles had two hits and drove in a run as Allen added two hits and scored a run to pace Naugatuck. Jason Bradley, Andrew Minchella and Swierbitowicz all scored for Naugatuck with Whitney and Torok getting RBIs.
Post 17 took a 2-0 lead in a rematch with Oxford on Saturday. Naugatuck had trouble getting the last out of the second inning as Oxford erupted for nine runs on the way to a 10-5 win.
“It was that one inning that gave us all the trouble,” coach Swierbitowicz said. “They strung together four or five hits and then we made an error and it just escalated from there. We battled back and put some runs on the board but we never could close that gap.”
Post 17 starts the homestretch of the season with games at Easton on Wednesday and versus Oxford at 5:45 p.m. at Naugatuck High School on Thursday. Naugatuck will host Ansonia in a double-header at Rotary Field on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Post 17 will close out the busy weekend with a double-header on Sunday against Waterbury at Naugatuck High School at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.