NAUGATUCK — The Housatonic Valley All-Stars captured the Senior Babe Ruth state championship for the second year in a row topping Stamford 6-0 in a decisive game at Naugatuck High last Friday.
After Stamford won the first game, 8-2, to force a deciding game, Jim Pjura got it done on the hill and at the plate to help Housy Valley to the crown.
Pjura tossed a three-hitter in the complete-game shutout, striking out 11. At the plate, Pjura sparked the offense by belting a home run, single, and two doubles with two RBI.
Dan McCue added two hits to pace the attack with Erich Broadrick, Evan Peck, Eric Christensen, Tom Carroll, and Ryan D’Souza adding base hits for the Housy Valley All-Stars.
“This is a great statement for the league,” manager Bob Neth, Sr. said. “The Housatonic Valley Senior Babe Ruth league had teams from Torrington, Milford, Naugatuck, Shelton and two teams from Watertown.
“Torrington opted to join the Zone 4 tournament,” Neth continued. “The two Watertown teams banded together for a run in the state tournament, and Milford decided not to participate in the tournament, leaving us with Shelton and Naugatuck to represent the league in the state tournament.”
Naugatuck had four players on the roster and Shelton provided 13 players for the squad that was also coached by Beth Neth Jr. and Brian McCue.
The Housatonic Valley All-Stars will now compete at the New England Regionals in New Hampshire Friday against the winner of the Vermont-Eastern Massachusetts game.
Pjura showed his dominance early in the championship game and was backed up by a solid defense. Mike Dew at first base, D’Souza at second base, Peck at third base, Dan McCue catching, and Eric Christensen at shortstop gave the team an entire Shelton infield.
In the outfield, Broadrick joined Tom Carroll and Eric Ercolino of Shelton . The defending state champions had enough pitching and replacements to make another run at the state title. From Naugatuck was third baseman Joe Verrastro, catcher Brad Papalaskus, and outfielder Billy Tiscia. From Shelton, Matt Brady, Alex Fresa, Connor Nolan, Mike Frizinia and Chad Cahoon rounded out the squad.
Stamford struck with four runs in the second inning of the series opener fueled by two Housatonic errors. A solo home run in the third and a single run in the fourth inning propelled Stamford as Bryan Walsh held the Valley All-Stars in check during the 8-2 win.
“If you take away the two errors they don’t score in that inning,” Neth said.
Housatonic Valley took a 1-0 advantage in the second inning of the deciding game. D’Souza crushed a double and came around to score on a run scoring hit from McCue. A three-run third inning gave Pjura a little bit of breathing room to work with.
Christensen led off with a triple and scored on an RBI single from Broadrick. Pjura helped himself out, belting a run-scoring double, and scored on a sacrifice fly from Carroll.
It was in the bag when Pjura slammed a solo home run in the fifth that increased the lead to 5-0. Housatonic Valley added a final run in the top of the seventh on back-to-back doubles from Pjura and Carroll for the 6-0 final margin.
Last year the Housatonic Valley All-Stars lost in the regional finals to Middlesex, dropping the last two games of the tournament. The Senior Babe Ruth World Series will be held from Aug. 6 to Aug. 13 in Epharta, Wash.
“We certainly have enough pitching to go far in the regionals with seven pitchers on the team,” Neth said. “If we can play solid defense and get the timely hitting that we had in game two we can go far in the tournament.”