After running through a marathon of a tournament, the Naugatuck Dogs of the Tri-State League captured their first-ever Stan Musial state tournament championship with a 4-1 victory over Chad’s Lawncare of Bridgeport on Monday at Trumbull High.
The Dogs (16-9), who only were able to play in the state tournament after the Watertown Blaze decided not to join the field, took advantage of the chance and won game after game.
The conclusion was a championship victory over a team that beat the Dogs, 5-4, earlier in the double-elimination tournament on Saturday.
Lance Stevens, a 29-year-old former Bridgeport Bluefish pitcher from Bakersfield, Calif., returned from injury to lead Naugatuck to the win with a three-hitter.
“It was one of those days when you don’t have a pitch you don’t trust,” Stevens told the Republican-American.
Manager Jay Harlamon didn’t even know Stevens would be available until the morning of the game after Harlamon had been sidelined for a month with a cracked rib.
“He was injured,” Harlamon told the Rep-Am. “We just told him that we wanted him ready when we got to the big game. He called me at 9 in the morning [on Monday] and said, ‘I’m ready.’”
Jeff Sturm led the Dogs with two hits while Ryan Russell had a double and an RBI single. In Naugatuck’s three-run third, Jamie Kimberly, Russell, and Kyle Faucher all had RBI singles.
The Dogs advanced to the state championship with two wins on Sunday—11-0 over the Milford Hunters and 4-3 over the Tri-Town Trojans—and a victory on Saturday—3-2 over Fidel’s of Bridgeport—all while facing elimination.
Macky Cianciolo, Ken Graveline, and Dan Connelly each pitched solid complete games during the tournament for Naugatuck victories while Devin Murphy, Matt Kane, Bob Augelli, and George Harlamon all added strong contributions on offense.
Though the Dogs won’t advance to regional play in Massachusetts because they declined the bid prior to the state tournament, the Waterbury Wild of the Tri-State League will advance because it was one of just four teams in the 16-team tournament to accept a regional bid.
The Wild won a pair of games early in the tournament to clinch the regional bid. A comeback, 3-2 victory over the Bridgeport Bellows last Wednesday as Julian Cruz tripled home Manny Cruz for a walk-off victory. Prospect’s Nick Boucher had two hits for the Wild while Ken Kerski pitched a complete game with seven strikeouts.
Prospect’s Jack DeBiase had a pair of hits in later games against Chad’s and the Connecticut Reds. The Wild defeated the Reds on Saturday before being eliminated in a 1-0 decision to the Tri-Town Trojans.
The Wild, Chad’s, and the Wolcott Scrappers of the Tri-State League will all play in this week’s AABC Stan Musial North Atlantic Regional Tournament in Braintree, Mass.