Post 17 eyeing playoffs

NAUGATUCK — With eight games left in the regular season, the Naugatuck senior American Legion baseball team is right in the thick of things in Zone 5.

The zone holds four state playoff spots, and Post 17 (8-8) has the fourth best record, only a game behind Bethel in the southern division.

After winning four of five games, Post 17 suffered a crushing sweep in a doubleheader at Torrington Wednesday.

In the first game of the doubleheader, Naugy trailed by five after the first inning. But thanks to a five-RBI day from Nick Bruno, the game headed into extra innings tied at 5-5. Torrington walked off in the ninth inning on a walk to take a 6-5 victory.

Bruno finished the game with four hits, while Austin Verab added two hits and a walk.

Naugatuck lost the nightcap, 1-0, the team’s fifth loss of the season by one run. Post 17 had scored in six straight games before Torrington kept Naugy’s bats in check.

Zach Graveline kept Post 17 alive on the mound, pitching six innings, giving up one unearned run and striking out five.

“In the second game of the doubleheader, a couple of mistakes here and there, and we could have won that game 3-1,” coach Mark Nofri said. “But we didn’t play well mentally and got no timely hitting. Playing four games in three days is a lot.”

Naugatuck headed into the doubleheader coming off what Nofri said was one of the team’s best performances, a 5-1 win over Oakville (9-4) on Tuesday.

Clinging to a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, Bruno gunned down Oakville’s Dean Fallas at the plate to prevent the tying run. The next inning, Post 17 added four more runs. Bruno had a two-run single in the inning and Justin Marks added an RBI-double.

Derrick Jagello delivered another stellar pitching performance for Post 17. He went all seven innings, giving up one unearned run on four hits and no walks.

“We had an outstanding performance from Derrick,” Nofri said. “He did a great job keeping them off-balanced and getting ahead on counts. We played solid defense behind him.”

The remaining eight games for Naugatuck will be challenging. The schedule includes two divisional matchups against Shelton, one against Bethel and one versus Danbury. They also play Washington, which is in first place in the northern division, three more times and one more game versus Oakville.

The homestretch starts Friday with a home game against Shelton. Post 17 will start off next week with a doubleheader Sunday at Washington, before visiting Bethel on Tuesday.

“Now we kind of see what we’re made of,” Nofri said. “How strong are you mentally and physically to perform and grind out wins when you’re tired and missing some players. Others have to step up and perform when their number is called.”