NAUGATUCK — The American Legion Post 17 baseball team opened the season last week with some added depth and a come-from-behind win.
The deeper roster stems from the Prospect-Beacon Falls Posts 194-25 team disbanding this season.
“We just kept seeing the numbers get smaller each season,” said Jeff Clarke, who coaches Posts 194-25. “We have taken a break and hopefully we can get this going again in the future, but for now we disbanded the team for this season.”
Naugatuck’s Post 17 reaped the benefit by gaining several players from the team.
First-year head coach Robert Swierbitowicz is filling the shoes of Rob Dibble, who retired after eight years at the helm of Post 17, and is pleased with the additions.
“Anytime you can grab some quality players, your program will definitely grow,” Swierbitowicz said. “We have depth at many positions. But what really has us excited is the fact that we have a lot of utility players who can play more than one position and that adds to our depth.”
Post 17 picked up a pair of Woodland players in infielder Matt Butterworth and outfielder Jarrett Allen, along with two former Hawks: pitcher Dylan Cummings and catcher Robert Stach.
Post 17 also gained Andrew Minchella from Pomperaug and Jeremy Rodriquez from Waterbury.
Naugatuck already had quite a bit of experience returning with four-year players Josh Aviles, Jason Bradley, Spencer Dreher and Matt Whitney back.
A core of this season’s Naugatuck High Greyhounds fill up the lineup. Pitchers Steve Marinaro, Corey Plasky and Shane Swierbitowicz will anchor the staff and provide infield depth when they are not on the hill.
Post 17’s depth is boosted by outfielder Brendan Caldwell and catcher Patrick Hughes. Kyle Torok, Zach Royka and David Verrilli are the type of multi-positional players Post 17 will rely on to put runs on the board.
“We have leaders on this team,” Swierbitowicz said. “Guys who want to play baseball. We have to learn together as a team, capitalize on the positive and deal with the negatives that come our way and then get back on track.
“Our goal is to be one of the top teams in the Zone. We have a lot of pitching and guys who can eat innings to keep us competitive. Runs will win games and defense will get you on SportsCenter.”
Naugatuck’s diversity was on display in an opening-season 5-4 win against Oakville June 9.
Post 17 battled back from a 2-0 deficit with three runs in the third. In the final at bat, Naugatuck rallied to pull out a 5-4 walk-off win in a game that will set the tone for a Zone 5 battled this season.
“I told the boys beforehand 10 hits will keep us in contention,” Swierbitowicz said. “We got 11 hits and got the game-winner on a sacrifice fly. Any time you can walk off it’s a special feeling. When you can do it against Oakville, it’s priceless.”
Naugatuck fell to 1-2 on the year after dropping both games of a doubleheader Tuesday against Bethel. Post 17 lost the first game, 5-2, then fell, 3-2, in the second game.
Naugatuck will visit Waterbury on Thursday at 8 p.m. On Saturday, Post 17 will be home at Naugatuck High School for an 11 a.m. contest against Danbury.