Naugatuck Post 17 is facing elimination in the state American Legion Southern Division Super Regional.
Naugatuck will play Cheshire Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Ceppa Field in Meriden. The winner will advance to play Stamford on Tuesday and have to beat Stanford twice.
Stamford rallied from two early deficits to defeat Naugatuck, 9-5, Sunday to send Naugatuck to the brink of elimination.
Stamford’s T.J. Wainwright belted a two-run home run in a four-run fourth inning and teammate Joey Skarad added a two-run home run in the sixth to power the win. Wainwright also tossed four innings of scoreless relief, allowing only one hit, a walk and hit a batter.
Naugatuck led Stamford, 3-0, in the top of the first, thanks to RBI singles by Justin Marks and Derrick Jagello and a bases-loaded walk by Michael Natkiel.
Stamford’s Reid Gesauldi had a two-run single in the bottom of the first, cutting the lead to 3-2. But Naugatuck responded again, as Zack Bedryczuk belted a two-run double, scoring Nicholas Bruno and Marks, upping the margin to 5-2.
But Naugatuck had only four base runners and just two hits the rest of the way.
“We have to keep our heads up and have to keep playing hard,” Bedryczuk said. “We’ve got to bounce back. When we had the lead, I felt we had the game (won). But we learned that we can never take the foot off the pedal. You need to keep the pressure on the other team.”
Even with early leads, Naugatuck head coach Mark Nofri knew that the game was far from over.
“Obviously, we started off hot with five runs in the first two innings,” Nofri said. “Things were looking good. But Stamford is a good hitting team and I knew that five runs wouldn’t be enough.”
Nicholas DeLucia will get the start for Naugatuck Monday while Cheshire goes with Rob Roles.
Naugatuck opened the Super Regional with a 2-0 win over Cheshire in extra innings on Saturday.
After pitching 7 2/3 innings of superb baseball, Jagello reached his pitch limit and gave way to Bruno in the bottom of the eighth.
Bruno proceeded to strike out Eli Battipaglia on a 3-2 count to seal the win.
“I had all confidence in Nick,” said Natkiel, Naugatuck’s catcher. “He wanted to throw a curveball in that situation, and I didn’t want to tell him no.”
Jagello allowed only three hits with four strikeouts and induced 10 infield groundouts and three infield pop-ups.
“Derrick always finds a way to come up in a big situation,” Natkiel said. “It was just a gutsy performance.”
In the top of the eighth, Mark Nofri walked, but was forced out at second base when Natkiel hit a grounder to third base.
Nathan Deptula grounded out to first base for the second out, but advanced Natkiel to second base. Pinch-runner Tristan Bosco Crelan replaced Natkiel.
Leadoff hitter Zack Graveline followed with a sharp grounder in the hole at shortstop that Schena smothered, preventing Bosco Crelan from scoring from third base.
Bruno fouled off five pitches before hitting a sharp grounder in the hole to Schena. Schena fired to second base for the force, but Graveline beat the throw.
“I went with a hard slide and knew that I could beat the throw,” Graveline said.
Bosco Crelan scored on the play to break the scoreless game.
“I ran as fast as I could,” said Bosco Crelan, whose main role is as a pinch-runner after coming off Tommy John surgery last year and being unable to play the field. “I can’t recall ever scoring a game-winning run. It’s a good feeling to help my team.”
Justin Marks followed with a single to center, scoring Graveline from second base for a 2-0 edge.
“Justin put us in a really good spot with a two-run lead,” Graveline said.