NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck American Legion Post 17 baseball team concluded a tough season with the split of a doubleheader on Saturday against Monroe.
Naugy dropped an 8-0 decision in the opener but rallied to earn a 6-5 victory in the second game to end the season on a winning note.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Matt Zahornasky went the distance and picked up the win on the hill as Naugatuck staged a last at-bat rally.
Post 17 trailed, 5-2, going to the bottom of the seventh when Ryan White led off with a walk before Zach Hertel and Matt D’Agnone singled to load the bases. Then, Anthony McKernan ripped a two-run single to cut the deficit to 5-4. Mike Burns followed with a single to tie the game and the winning run crossed the plate on an overthrow to the catcher.
McKernan pitched the opener of the twin-bill, surrendering a two-run homer in the first inning when Jon Testani sent a two-strike pitch out of the yard. McKernan settled down and allowed only one more run in the fourth as Post 17 trailed, 3-0, heading into the top of the fifth. Naugatuck only had two hits to that point, a third-inning single by White and a fifth-inning single by Adam Neveski.
Monroe put the game away as it erupted for five runs in the fifth to take a commanding, 8-0 advantage. Three walks and two errors aided the Post 176 uprising as Hertel came on in relief of McKernan.
“I thought Anthony pitched a good game for us,” Naugatuck manager Bob Dibble said. “He settled down after the home run but we just didn’t give him any support with the bats.”
Monroe pitcher Jon Prutting spun a three-hitter, striking out five. Monroe was one of five teams in Zone 5 that qualified for the state tournament. Post 176 won its play-in game against Tri-County, 10-9, on Tuesday to advance to Wednesday’s round.
Oakville won the Zone 5 regular-season title with a 24-3 mark with Monroe and Bethel finishing at 17-10. Waterbury and Oxford qualified with 16-11 ledgers.
Naugatuck ended the season at 9-18, falling short of a postseason bid by five games.
“I’m happy for the kids that they got to end the season on a winning note,” Dibble said. “It’s been a tough season but this is a great group of kids and they never gave up. They came to play every day. A couple of hits here and there might have changed our luck a bit but it is certainly something we can build on for next season.”
Dibble also thanked a number of people, including Post 17 Commander Jim Gagnon, fundraiser organizers Fran and Gerri Keith, and Naugatuck Savings Bank’s Dan Alegi for helping with finances.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have even had a season,” Dibble said. “[And] all the generous support of the membership of Post 17, without their support there would not have been a season. And that would have been a shame since Frank Johnson, Sr. started this and kept it running for 65 years.”