NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck American Legion Post 17 junior baseball team won the Zone 5 title in grand fashion this season, sporting a 20-2 record. That was well ahead of second-place Ridgefield (16-8) and third-place Bethel (14-10).
Head coach Zac Dreher and assistant coach Matt D’Agnone knew they had a stable of overachievers on the roster but may have been taken back by the stunning start of the Post 17 juniors.
Naugatuck stormed out to a 6-0 record with the pitching staff throwing six shutouts and Post 17 never looked back. Spencer Dreher was the ace, going 6-0 with five complete games, three shutouts, three two-hitters and 48 strikeouts in 42 innings on the hill.
“We knew we had four or five guys who saw considerable time on the high school varsity this season,” Zac Dreher said. “A lot of these guys played last year at the junior level so we felt we had a very competitive team. The key was having five and six solid arms to put out on the mound and that contributed to the fast start we got off to.”
Ethen Mester provided a second reliable arm on the mound, putting together a 5-0 record with two shutouts and a 1.17 ERA. Ricky Plasky threw three complete games, including two shutouts, with a 2-1 mark and an 0.86 ERA. Keith Daisey, Evan Pelliccia and Kyle Plasky all earned wins on the hill as Post 17 allowed runs in just 11 of the 22 games played.
Naugy won the final two games of the regular season to keep alive a 12-game win streak.
Jason Bradley threw a complete-game four-hitter in a 3-1 win over Danbury last Friday. Kyle Plasky, Josh Aviles and Kyle Pyshna scored for Post 17 with Aviles, Bradley and Kevin Mariano driving in the runs to spark the offense.
On Sunday, Aviles guided Naugatuck to win No. 20 by throwing all 10 innings in a 2-1 win over Ridgefield. Aviles scattered six hits, struck out eight and scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th. Kyle Plasky scored the tying run while Mariano and Adam Tavares knocked in the runs.
Bradley led the team with 25 hits, a .439 average and 23 stolen bases while scoring 17 runs and adding 15 RBI. Pelliccia was second in hits (24) and average (.414) and scored 20 runs. Dreher led the team with 18 RBI, batted .388 and had a disciplined approach at the plate, walking 18 times and striking out just four times.
Aviles was an effective leadoff batter, hitting .339 with 15 stolen bases and 19 runs. Kyle Plasky batted .327 and scored 18 runs, and Mariano drove in 12 runs with four doubles. Post 17 went scored 161 runs on the season while allowing just 31.
“I think the biggest challenge we had as a coaching staff was to get them to realize the potential they had,” D’Agnone said. “We had four guys who were double rostered and that experience helped us the most at the plate. There wasn’t one player who didn’t contribute to the success we had. Even the guys off the bench came on and delivered in the clutch. Going down the stretch in the season, Matt Whitney, Kyle Pyshna, Corey Plasky and Colin Leary were invaluable in helping us to finish the season strong the way we did.”
Naugatuck will begin the road to a championship on Monday at Rotary Field for a 4 p.m. game with the opponent to be determined based on the playdown round. From there, the final eight teams left will advance to Bethel with Post 17 needing three more wins for a state title.
“I like our chances in the state tournament,” Zac Dreher said. “We have solid pitching and a lineup that has scored an average of eight runs a game. But we won’t have Adam Tavares, who played one too many games for the senior team and won’t be eligible. I looked at the other zones and we will see some competitive teams, there is no doubt about that. But it will come down to which teams saw the most varsity action during the spring.”