NAUGATUCK — The end came as all endings do. Heartfelt hugs and some regrets marked the conclusion of the Naugatuck Post 17 American Legion baseball team’s season.
Last Thursday at Naugatuck High School a group of players, who have been playing together since Little League, took the diamond for the last time together and went out in style with a 14-5 win over Easton.
The victory left Post 17 (13-14) one win short of qualifying for the state sectional tournament. Matt Whitney went the distance on the hill in his second start of the season and Kevin Mariano went out with a bang collecting a single, double, a home run and four RBI to pace the offense.
Ricky Plasky belted three hits and Kyle Plasky added two hits for the Post 17 attack, but it wasn’t enough to put Naugatuck in the playoffs.
“There are a couple of games I wish we had back,” Naugatuck head coach Rob Dibble said. “We had a handful of games that we had the tying or winning run on base in the last inning, and we just couldn’t come up with that last hit to get us over the hump.”
This season marked the final one for six players.
“We had a great group of kids these last few years and we are going to be losing six of them for next season,” Dibble said. “Ricky and Kyle Plasky along with John Dean, Kevin Mariano, Chris Anderson and Ethen Mester have played their final year of eligibility.”
Ricky Plasky finished the year with a record of 4-3 on the mound. Kyle Plasky earned a 3-2 mark as a starter. Jason Bradley proved to be a pleasant surprise going 4-2 on the hill, taking a no-hitter into the final inning against Waterbury.
Bradley was also the leader in the hitting department. He put up a .365 average with 14 runs scored and 15 runs driven in. Kyle Plasky hit at a .290 clip with 16 runs scored and Mariano ended up with 12 RBI.
Dibble said the team has a solid core in place for next season.
“We have a really good core of players coming back led by Bradley and pitcher Spencer Dreher, who pitched a complete game and got the win on his own walk-off home run (June 30 against Prospect-Beacon Falls),” Dibble said.
He added, “Patrick Hughes did a great job for us catching. Hopefully we can get Josh Aviles back to where he was before he was injured and we have some good young players in Corey Plasky, Brendan Caldwell, Andrew Minchella and Whitney.”
Dibble will also look to up-and-coming players from the Junior Legion team to contribute.
“The Junior Legion team was very young and had a little trouble offensively, but Pat Brown showed signs of helping us out next season at pitcher and shortstop,” he said.