Dogs find success with family atmosphere

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Dogs family came back together this summer for another successful season.

The Dogs, now in their 11th season in the Tri-State League covering northwest Connecticut, have featured the same core group of players for its entire existence. They went 16-3 in the regular season this year, finishing second to the Watertown Blaze (19-0).

After winning three state tournaments since 2011, the Dogs came up short last week. The Dogs defeated Stratford and Milford earlier in the week to stay alive in the tournament, but lost twice to Fedells Mechanics and were eliminated.

For a team that played in the state title game five of the last seven seasons, this year proved to be challenging.

“We were a little banged up this year, it’s no excuse but we didn’t have a large roster,” Dogs manager Jay Harlamon said. “We’ll be back to compete in the states next year.”

The Dogs featured 16 active players and seemed to face the other team’s top pitcher most nights.

“Our league was strong this year,” Harlamon added.

Half of the 16-team league finished at 10-9 or better.

The limited roster also meant a limited pitching staff, but the Dogs made up for it at the plate and in the field.

“We score a lot of runs and have an explosive lineup,” Harlamon said. “Our trademark was good defense most nights.”

After the July 4 holiday, the Dogs rattled off eight straight wins. In perhaps the most impressive victory of the season, Naugy defeated Torrington 28-3 on July 9.

Kyle Murphy (four hits) got the Dogs on the board in the first inning with a three-run home run to start an 11-run first inning. Ryan Plourde (seven RBI), Jeff Rustico, and Devin Murphy all added four hits for Naugy. Sean Miller-Jones, Brendan Slattery and Ryan Russell all had two hits for Naugy.

To bolster the pitching staff, the Dogs picked up Tyler Boisvert and Kevin Murray.

Murray pitched eight innings and allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out seven to lead Naugy to a 4-1 victory over Wolcott on July 6. Jeff Sturm broke the 1-1 tie with an RBI single in the top of the eighth inning, while Devin Murphy got the Dogs on the board with a solo home run in the second inning.

Boisvert gave up four hits over six innings on the mound as the Dogs took a six inning mercy-rule 10-2 win over Stratford to start the state tournament. Plourde had three hits and a pair of RBI while Devin Murphy contributed two hits and two RBI.

Despite losing in the state tournament, the Dogs will now compete in the league tournament as the No. 2 seed. They play their first game on August 11.

After 11 years of chasing a state title, the Dogs continue to play for the love of the game.

“We have a close group of guys who have been playing together since they were teenagers,” Harlamon said. “It’s almost like a family. We have a good bunch of guys and it’s a lot of fun.”