NAUGATUCK — The final stretch of the regular season wasn’t easy for the Naugatuck American Legion baseball team, but at the end, Post 17 finds itself in the state playoffs for the second straight season.
Naugatuck (13-11) is in one of eight “pods,” a four-team double-elimination bracket with the winner advancing to the “super regional.” Post 17 is in a pod with Trumbull, Wallingford and Meriden. Naugy is the No. 2 seed and scheduled to play No. 3 Wallingford on Saturday.
Post 17 ended the regular season with four games in four days. That included victories over two of the top teams in the zone and two losses to teams below them in the standings.
“It was good because we beat Washington and Oakville but we lost to Danbury and Shelton,” coach Mark Nofri said. “That’s just baseball. Some days you hit, some days you don’t. It is puzzling how the season has gone but it does take a toll. Sometimes we only had nine guys and it is a lot of games.”
Naugatuck concluded the season with a 2-0 loss to Shelton on Tuesday. Nick Bruno delivered another fine pitching performance for the Naugy, giving up two unearned runs and striking out six in seven innings.
“Nick did a great job for us,” Nofri said. “Our pitching has been there for us all season long. Sometimes, we just haven’t been able to get the timely hits.”
While the season finale did not end well for Post 17, Naugatuck picked up back-to-back one-run victories over Washington and Oakville. Naugy has played in eight games this season that were decided by one run. After losing the first five of those affairs, Naugatuck won the last three.
In a 5-4 win at Washington on Monday, Naugatuck trailed by one entering the final inning. Zach Bedryczuk tied the game with a single and then Justin Marks scored on a past ball to take the lead. Bruno picked up the save in one scoreless inning.
Bruno, Marks, Nick Delucia and Zach Graveline each had a multi-hit game, and eight of the nine Naugy batters recorded a hit.
Naugatuck won another close game, 6-5, over Oakville Sunday, this time in eight innings. Post 17 had a 4-1 lead in the sixth, but Oakville tied it up after seven. An Austin Verab single and a Ryan McCarthy sacrifice fly pushed Naugatuck’s lead back to two. Oakville’s first two batters reached base in the bottom of the eighth, but Naugy turned a huge double play to kill the momentum. Oakville scored one in the inning, but Post 17 prevailed.
Bedryczuk went 3-for-4 with an RBI, while Verab added two hits and an RBI. Alvin Torres also chipped in with a hit and two RBI.
Naugatuck might have a target on its back now after the success the team had last year in the state tournament, but Nofri said that doesn’t concern him.
“I don’t really think about that stuff” Nofri said. “Honestly it means nothing to me, what we did last year. Every season brings a different challenge and different players. We should have our full squad on Saturday, so I am confident we can get the job done.”