TORRINGTON — Naugatuck has gone to the Dogs — an adult baseball team that enjoys playing the game.
Despite a heartbreaking, 2-1 loss in decisive Game 3 of the Tri-State League’s championship series last Friday, Naugy Dogs manager Jay Harlamon remained upbeat about this past season and next year.
“We have a great team chemistry,” Harlamon said. “We have a lot of fun together.”
In seven seasons, the Dogs have gone from a five-win team to a two-time Stan Musial state champion — and the team narrowly missed a third title this season. Naugatuck finished this year with a 28-10 overall record and a Tri-State League South Division crown.
After a 2-3 start with several key injuries, the Dogs started to bark — and win games.
“By the time we got everybody back, we started playing pretty good,” Harlamon said. “We got there with solid defense and pitching.”
The Dogs’ roster spans from recent Naugatuck High grads Matt Zahornasky and Adam Neveski to former Woodland High standouts Ken Graveline and Macky Cianciolo to 30-year-old Lance Stevens, who pitched for the Bridgeport Bluefish. Stevens took the mound in the final game of the season.
Stevens matched zeros with Tri-Town starter Miles Scribner (18-1 this season) in a matchup that featured both starters going the distance in a best-of-three deciding game that went 12 innings. Stevens’ line: 11 2/3 innings, 12 strikeouts, nine hits and three walks.
“After the 10th I asked Lance how he felt,” Harlamon said. “He said, ‘I definitely can give you two more innings.’”
Naugy eventually lost on an unearned run in the 12th.
“We didn’t come through for Lance and get that big hit we needed,” Harlamon said.
The Dogs forced a Game 3 after exploding for seven runs in the last two innings in an 8-4 comeback win the previous night.
Kyle Murphy blasted a three-run homer in the seventh and Graveline added a three-run double in the eighth for the Dogs.
Game 1 was another pitcher’s duel with Naugy’s John Soldinger, who delivered eight innings, eight strikeouts and only two earned runs on four hits. Scribner posted a complete-game, 2-0 shutout.
Despite the tough losses, Harlamon stressed the positives about the team. Before the postseason, teams are allowed to make three draft picks to supplement their rosters for a busy stretch of games and potentially take lineup spots of current players.
The Dogs didn’t draft anyone.
“Our team out there last week was straight-up Dogs,” Harlamon said. “I have to be loyal to the guys that played with us the whole season.”
When asked about the outlook for next year, Harlamon said it’s bright.
“We’re a tight-knit group,” he said. “I would expect everyone to return.”