By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck American Legion baseball team entered the season as the new kid on the block.
After some teams chose not to return this season, Connecticut American Legion Baseball realigned the zones. Post 17 went from playing in Zone 5 to Zone 1, which includes some heavy hitters like Bristol, West Hartford and Meriden.
Naugatuck headed into the Fourth of July break 4-3 and in a battle with four other teams for the top spot in Zone 1. West Hartford (7-2) led the zone, with Meriden (5-2) Bristol (6-3) and Avon (5-3) in the mix.
Naugy showed just how competitive the team is with a 3-2 win over Avon in nine innings June 26.
Post 17 went on top 1-0 in the first inning when Nick Bruno worked out a walk and later scored on a hit off the bat of Mike Deitelbaum, who was 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Brady Evon scattered four hits through six innings and surrendered his only run when Avon tied the game in the bottom of the sixth.
Post 17 went ahead in the top of the ninth when Ryan Tyszka was hit by a pitch and Tom Barry hit into a fielder’s choice. Matt Stefan bunted to move Barry over, but beat out the throw to give Naugy runners at first and second. James Duda hit a RBI single to score Barry and put Naugy ahead. Bruno hit a sacrifice fly to send Stefan across the plate for an insurance run.
Derrick Jagello, who worked the last three innings in relief, gave up one hit and an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth, before securing the final out for the win.
“It was a great game, proud of these kids, the way they battled,” Post 17 head coach Jim Duda said. “We jumped out on top when Bruno walked and Deitelbaum continued his hot hitting knocking him in.”
“Our pitching and defense was awesome,” he added. “A little surprised that we are doing as well as we are for as young as we are, and we are doing it against those top teams in the zone.”
Naugy played a rematch against West Hartford on June 30 in between a pair of rainouts. The game was cut short by lightning after five complete innings, but it went into the books as 8-2 win for West Hartford.
West Hartford scored a run in the third. Four errors in the fourth opened the door to a seven-run inning for West Hartford.
“It was much like our first game of the season against them (a 7-2 loss on June 16),” Duda said. “We didn’t play our best game defensively. They are a very good team, they are solid and you can’t make mistakes or they will take advantage.”
Naugatuck is set to resume play July 6 against Bristol, followed by games against Meriden on July 8 and Avon on July 9.