Rice’s gem not enough for Post 17

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Video compiled by Dan DeBlasio, CN staff writer

NAUGATUCK — Post 17 Head Coach Ron Swierbitowicz needed only one word to sum up his starting pitcher’s performance Tuesday night at New Milford: “Fantastic.”

If only he could have said the same about his team’s hitting.

Pitcher Greg Rice threw a complete game and allowed only one run while giving up nine hits and striking out five in seven innings. That all came in a losing effort, though, as Naugatuck fell to New Milford 1-0 on a Derrick Brady walk-off single with two down in the seventh.

The old fashioned pitchers’ duel pinned Rice up against New Milford hurler Tyler Valzini, who threw a masterpiece of his own.

Rice did everything he could to put his team in position to win the game, but the hits were nowhere to be found.

“Greg goes out there and gives us a chance to win every time out,” Swierbitowicz said. “He was in the strike zone all day, battled through some tough spots and got out of it, picked a couple guys off, did a great job keeping us in the game.”

Greg Rice delivers a pitch in Naugatuck's 1-0 loss to New Milford Tuesday.

His counterpart, Valzini, was lights-out, throwing a complete game shutout and giving up just four hits and striking out three, leading New Milford, who was struggling coming into the game, back in the win column.

“Tyler gave us exactly what we needed,” New Milford Head Coach Paul Iverson said. “We were on a bad roll here, we needed someone to come in and stop the bleeding, throw a good game, and he did just that. We told him to go out and pound the strike zone and we’ll play defense. That’s exactly what he did.”

Naugatuck failed to record an extra-base hit the entire game. The top two batters in the order, Mark Wilson and Arber Mehmedi, batted for a combined 3-for-6, but the rest of the lineup mustered just one hit in seven innings.

Post 17 did manage to move runners up with stolen bases; Mark Wilson, Joe Iannotti and Zac Hertel all swiped a bag, but Valzini quickly quashed every potential rally, and Post 17 couldn’t manage to get a run across.

“I give credit to their guy,” Swierbitowicz said. “He was in the strike zone all day but he wasn’t overpowering, and I thought eventually we would start to hit him hard, and we just never did. Guys are having a tough time making adjustments in the middle of the game, so that’s something that we’re going to have to work on.”

The nail-biter is something both teams have become accustomed to this season.

“We’ve seen a lot of that this season,” Iverson said. “The thing is, they didn’t quit; we had guys on base a number of times, they could have packed it in, but they kept working. We got guys on base in the last inning, and Derrick came up with a big hit, game over.”

The loss drops Naugatuck to 6-13. Post 17 was scheduled to play a home-and-home set with Oxford after printing, and then is scheduled to host Waterbury on Friday at 7 p.m.