NAUGATUCK — Following up last season’s run will be a tough task for Naugatuck Post 17 and first-year coach Mark Nofri.
Post 17 made it past the first round of the 2018 American Legion baseball state tournament and into the quarterfinals under then-coach Ron Plasky. Naugy lost some valuable players from last year’s team, including Corey Plasky, Steve Marinaro and Will McDonald.
McDonald and Plasky led the team in batting average, and McDonald drove in nine more runs than any other player. Marinaro pitched ten innings in an elimination game in the tournament last year, which Post 17 won.
Despite the losses, Naugatuck still returns a wealth of talent, including Derrick Jagello, Nate Deptula, Mark Nofri, Derek Sampaio, Austin Verab and DJ Kirpas.
Jagello was the team leader in ERA in 2018 and also finished second in RBIs. Verab was the only Naugy player to hit a home run last season, while Kirpas was second on the team in on-base percentage. Deptula tossed a no-hitter for the Naugy Greyhounds this spring.
“We have a lot of talent on this team,” Nofri said. “We have quite a few new players this year. So if we can gel with each other and work together, we can definitely compete in our zone.”
Those new players that Nofri mentioned bring even more talent from outside of Naugatuck. Zachary Bedryczuk, Justin Butterworth and Justin Marks all come from a Woodland baseball team that won 20 games this season and made it to the Class M semifinals. Zack Graveline, a Woodland grad, will also join Post 17 after his freshman year at Westfield State.
Post 17 will, once again, have to compete in a tough Zone 5 that includes Oakville, Washington, Bethel, Danbury, Shelton and Torrington.
Oakville, the perennial powerhouse in Zone 5 for quite some time, faced Naugy in the double-elimination state quarterfinals last year, where Naugy prevailed.
Nofri said that the key to his team’s success this summer will be hitting.
“The strength of this team is definitely our pitching and defense,” Nofri said. “I think we just need to hit. Our pitching will always keep us in games, but if we can hit, I believe we can beat anybody.”
Naugy will start the season Saturday at Danbury, followed by the home-opener Sunday against Torrington at Naugatuck High School.