Naugy Dogs flip a switch in Tri-State playoffs

Naugatuck’s Sean Miller-Jones (4) looks to turn a double play after getting the force out at second on Tri-State Trojans’ Connor Murray (11) during a Tri-State League semifinal game Aug. 14 at Municipal Stadium. –BILL SHETTLE/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

The No. 6-seeded Naugatuck Dogs had their work cut out for them going into the Tri-State League playoffs, but they flipped a switch once the postseason started.

Naugatuck, which finished 9-8 in the regular season, swept No. 3 Blasius in best-of-three series to open the playoffs, then pulled out the brooms again to beat No. 2 Tri Town Trojans the best-of-three semifinal series.

The Dogs opened the Tri-State League World Series Aug. 20 against No. 1 Terryville Black Sox at Fussenich Park in Torrington.

The Black Sox held on for a 4-2 win. Devin Murphy struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, and the Dogs stranded 11 base runners. Kevin Murray kept the Dogs in the game, going six strong innings on the hill with Adam Neveski throwing the last two innings in relief.

“A hit here or there in a key situation would have changed the outcome,” Naugy manager Jay Harlamon said.

“We did strand 11 base runners,” he added. “But Terryville is a very strong pitching team having got us twice 1-0, 2-0 during the season.”

Back-to-back rainouts pushed Game 2 of the best-of-three series to Friday with Game 3, if necessary, set for Saturday.

“We will be ready to give it our all and try and finish what we started,” Harlamon said.

Harlamon, along with coach Ray Gulick, has guided the Dogs to the finals three times in the last four seasons.

“We have four or five guys who have been with the team since it started in 2006,” Harlamon said. “The rest of the team has been here since 2009, with the exception of one or two players. We have won three state championships and our first Tri-State championship in 2017.”

In the opening round of the playoffs, Lance Stevens pitched a four-hitter over seven innings in a 5-1 win over Blasius Aug. 3. Stevens added a two run single and Brendan Slattery went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI.

In Game 2, the Dogs got a jump start on a grand slam from Ryan Plourde. Miller-Jones and Matt Lehane went 3-for-3 and Jeff Rustico added a two-run single. Neveski closed out the win on the hill.

In Game 1 of the semifinals, Kevin Murray scattered just three hits over seven innings and struck out eight in a 10-4 win over Tri Town Aug. 13. Devin Murphy went 4-for-5 with four RBI and Kyle Murphy added three RBI.

Rustico pitched a complete game in Game 2, a 7-2 win, striking out ten. Slattery was 3-for-5 with an RBI and Plourde went 2-for-4 with a RBI.