By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Post 17 American Legion baseball team is back.
The National American Legion shut down all sponsorship and involvement in baseball last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, Legion teams throughout the state, including Naugatuck, formed a one-year alliance as the Connecticut Elite Baseball Association.
A year after going 10-6 in the Connecticut Elite Baseball Association, Naugatuck is back to playing Legion ball, though not everything is the same. Some Legion teams decided not to field a squad this year, leading to the disbanding of zones 5, 7 and 8. Naugatuck, which played in Zone 5, is now in Zone 1 with teams like West Hartford, Avon and Newington.
“We are a rather young team,” Naugatuck head coach James Duda said. “It will be a challenge, especially going into a new zone against teams we are unfamiliar with, but having those three older players helps to bring the younger players along.”
The players Duda is referring to are Nick Bruno, an outfielder who plays at Western Connecticut State University, Derrick Jagello, a pitcher/infielder at Southern Connecticut State University, and Jake Murphy, an infielder/outfielder who attends Western New England University.
Bruno batted .420 and Jagello went 2-1 with a stingy 1.16 ERA to lead the team last year
“The kids are excited to be back on the field after what happened last season,” Duda said. “We are young but we have a good core of players who had successful seasons this spring at the high school level.”
Recently graduated Naugatuck seniors Justin Stone (center field), Ryan Sutherland (pitcher), Alex Sosa (pitcher/shortstop), Ryan Galiette (first base/outfield) and Peter Mullin (second base/outfield) give Post 17 more experience this season.
Pitchers Brady Evon, Ryan Tyszka, Matt Kilmer and James Duda can also play multiple positions in the field. Duda will also look for contributions on the mound from a couple of younger pitchers: sophomore Matt Stefan and freshman Andrew Tyszka.
Anthony Abate can play shortstop or at second. Tom Barry can play just about anywhere and will be another bat to add the lineup. Catchers Michael Rusin and Michael Deitelbaum will share duties behind the plate and at third base.
“Pitching will be the key, especially when we are playing teams that have a lot of older and experienced players,” Duda said. “But we are confident that we can get our bat on the ball and put some runs on the board.”
Post 17 started the season 1-1.
Naugatuck lost, 7-2, to West Hartford on June 16. Deitelbaum went 2-for-3 with a RBI and Justin Stone drove in a run to lead Naugatuck. Brady Evon pitched 4 1/3 innings.
Post 17 rebounded with an 11-1 win over Berlin on June 17. Abate, Sosa and Rusin had two hits each to lead Naugatuck. Tyszka gave up four hits and one run and struck out three in five innings.
Naugatuck is scheduled to play four games in five days, starting June 19 at Muzzy Field to play Bristol at 10 a.m.