Post 17 in battle for final tournament spot in Zone 5
NAUGATUCK — After trying to cram 24 games in a span of six weeks, the 2016 American Legion baseball season may come down to just one game for Naugatuck Post 17.
Post 17 (10-12) is in a dog fight with Oakville (11-11) for the fifth and final spot in Zone 5 to qualify for the state tournament, which starts this weekend.
Naugatuck fell to Bethel, 3-1, on Tuesday to drop a game behind Oakville. The two teams will meet Wednesday at Taft School in Watertown at 5:45 p.m. with a tournament bid on the line. The final game of the regular season for Post 17 is Thursday at 5:45 p.m. against Danbury at Brookfield High School.
Naugatuck and Oakville have battled through a few tough games this season. Naugy rallied for two runs in their final at bat to win the season-opener by a 5-4 margin.
Post 17 led the whole way two weeks ago until Oakville rallied to tie the game in the sixth and then got a run in the final at bat to earn the 5-4 walk-off win.
Post 17 has been on a tear as of late. Naugatuck won four in a row last week and picked up a much-needed win on Monday against Ansonia after dropping a doubleheader to Waterbury on Sunday.
“Pitching is the key,” Post 17 head coach Robert Swierbitowicz said. “We had a couple of games we had to piece the pitching together using three or four guys.
“Corey (Plasky) and Steve (Marinaro) have really been solid for us and Shane (Swierbitowicz) has been our number one. But we got some big games out of Dylan (Cummings) and Zach (Royka).”
Naugatuck got a sterling two-hit shutout from Zach Royka on Monday in a 7-0 win over Ansonia. Post 17 plated three runs in the third to take control of the game and finished the job with a four-run outburst in the fifth inning.
Kyle Torok went 3-for-4 with two doubles, three RBI and scored a run to pace the offense. Corey Plasky added two runs scored and a pair of RBI.
Naugatuck picked up a forfeit win July 13 over against Easton before beating Oxford, 3-2, July 14. Swierbitowicz scattered six hits through 6 1/3 innings to pick up the win on the mound. Jason Bradley picked up his fifth save of the season.
Post 17 needed another big outing on the mound in the first game of a double-header with Ansonia on Saturday. Dylan Cummings stepped forward and went seven innings in a 9-1 win.
Royka had two hits and four RBI, and Minchella added two doubles and drove in three runs. Steve Marinaro scored three runs and Swierbitowicz added two runs scored. Jarrett Allen had two hits and a run scored.
Naugatuck took the second game of the doubleheader, 3-0. Matt Whitney threw three innings and surrendered two hits. Marinaro gave up a hit in one inning of work. Plasky and Bradley combined to pitched three innings of hitless relief to complete the combined three-hit shutout.
Josh Aviles had two hits and a run scored. Torok added two hits, a run and an RBI.
After four wins in a row Post 17 ran into Waterbury (18-1) on Sunday and dropped both games of a doubleheader, 11-0 and 7-2.
Prior to the twin-bill the teams met to complete a suspended game, and Naugatuck was batting in the top of the seventh and rallying.
Allen drew a bases-loaded walk and Matt Butterworth singled to make it a 5-4 deficit but the lead runner was thrown out going to third. Waterbury escaped with the win before sweeping the doubleheader.
“We had a nice run going picking up those four wins last week,” coach Swierbitowicz said. “We had a chance against Waterbury in the completion of the suspended game but we came up short.
“That let down showed in the doubleheader. Once we get down emotionally, there just is not enough pep talks to get them back on track. But we really need to come to play against Oakville if we want to make the playoffs.”