NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck American Legion junior squad ended its run in the state tournament last Wednesday at Bethel High, dropping a 10-5 decision to Fairfield. The Post 17 juniors rode the strength of pitching and defense this season, culminating in the Zone 5 title.
But in last Wednesday’s quarterfinals, Naugatuck committed three errors in the first inning that staked Fairfield to an early 4-0 advantage. Post 17 clawed back into the game and trailed 4-3 entering the fourth inning.
Fairfield put away the game with two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to build an 8-3 advantage, before topping it off with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh for a 10-3 lead.
Naugatuck responded with a pair of runs in its final at-bat but the pitching and defense was not what it had been during the season, ending the run in the state tournament. Fairfield went on to win the state championship as Naugatuck will look to add to the talent at the senior level next season.
“That was a good Fairfield team we faced,” head coach Zac Dreher said. “All year we relied on our defense and pitching and that got us through the zone as champions. But we just ran out of gas. I’m pleased at the record these kids ended up with. Next year, Legion will be a little different. There will be no 19-year-olds so with these kids moving up to the senior level we should have a real good squad next season.”
Spencer Dreher was the ace of the staff, going 7-0 on the season with a 0.33 ERA while holding opponents to a .072 average. Ethen Mester went 5-0 on the hill with a 1.17 ERA and opponents hit just .202. Ricky Plasky went 2-1 with a 0.86 ERA and opponents managed a .212 average.
“We rode our pitching as we started the season with six straight shutouts,” assistant coach Matt D’Agnone said. “But after our comeback win in the playoffs, things didn’t go our way against Fairfield. We had our chances. In the sixth inning we had the bases loaded with no outs and didn’t score. That pretty much ended it for us. We have eight or nine guys moving up to the senior level next year and that should make us a very competitive team in the zone.”
A couple of the big bats that will be moving up will be Josh Aviles, a leadoff batter with 19 hits, 19 runs scored and 15 stolen bases. Shortstop Jason Bradley was the go-to guy, leading the team with 25 hits and a .439 clip while scoring 17 runs and driving in 15 with 23 stolen bases.
Dreher led the team in RBI with 18 and Kevin Mariano knocked in 12 runs on four doubles and a triple. Evan Pelliccia scored 20 runs on 24 hits and Kyle Plasky scored 18 runs on 18 hits. That all should combine to add enough firepower to the lineup to make next year’s senior Legion team a competitive force in Zone 5.