NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck American Legion baseball team fell into a slump late last month, running short on arms and trying to fill the void caused by injuries. Post 17 dropped five of six games and needed someone to step up and stop the free fall.
John Dean came to the rescue Tuesday at Rotary Field, firing a three-hit shutout with five strikeouts in a 4-0 win over Monroe.
The sterling pitching performance came just three days after older brother Pat Dean of the New Britain Rock Cats threw his first professional shutout, blanking Reading 5-0 on Saturday before a sellout crowd at New Britain Stadium.
“Maybe that inspired John,” Post 17 head coach Rob Dibble said. “Whatever it was, John has really come on for us. He has improved throughout the season, and against Monroe whenever he needed a strike he got it.”
Monroe got a couple of baserunners in the first inning only to have Dean slam the door in its face. After giving up a leadoff single, Dean fielded a bunt attempt and alertly threw to second to erase the lead runner.
After a walk, Dean left the mound to backhand a comebacker and threw a strike to third to get the lead runner again. Dean went back to work and promptly struck out the final batter to retire the side.
Monroe would not be heard from again as Dean silenced Post 176’s bats for the remainder of the game, allowing just two more baserunners. Naugy’s defense lent a hand, pulling off a 5-4-3 double play to highlight an errorless game in the field.
“We really needed a game like this,” Dibble said. “We lost Nolan Kinne, our leadoff batter and centerfielder, to an injury. That slowed us down a bit but we are starting to come around. Hopefully with a game like this we can gain some momentum.”
Naugatuck took the lead in the third on an infield single by Mike Burns and a run-scoring double by Adam Tavares.
Post 17 increased its lead to 2-0 in the fourth when Charles Healy got a hit and Dean knocked him in with a single. Naugatuck collected 10 hits to pace the attack with Healy, Burns and Ryan White each notching two hits.
“It’s a short season with a lot of games piled on top of one another,” Dibble said. “Injuries, players being away and work schedules all play into the fact of fielding a full squad. But every team is in the same boat. The hits that were falling earlier in the season are now landing in gloves. Sometimes it’s luck, but it’s in those times you need to dig down and create your own luck.”
Post 17 managed to get some of those hits to fall in the sixth as it tacked on two more runs to build a 4-0 advantage. Adam Neveski singled and Healy cracked a double. That started it, and Jon Bisson finished it with a double to make it a 3-0 margin. Mike D’Agnone singled in a run to account for the final margin.
Naugatuck dropped to 8-8 with a 2-0 loss Wednesday versus Oakville. Post 17 will look to get back above .500 when it travels to Ridgefield on Saturday morning. Naugy will be at Bethel on Sunday for a doubleheader.