NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck American Legion baseball team had an opportunity to take control of Zone 5. As they enter the final week of the regular season, Post 17 is in a dogfight to make the playoffs.
Post 17 rattled off six wins in seven games to improve to 10-4 and had the top two teams in the Zone waiting in the wings. The chance to overtake the lead in the Zone slipped through their fingers as three straight one-run losses sent Naugatuck tumbling down the standings.
Naugatuck took on Oakville July 1 and left the tying run at second base in a 4-3 loss. Consecutive errors at shortstop opened the door to disaster as Ricky Plasky surrendered four hits in a row, and Oakville plated three runs in the second inning.
Post 17 chipped away at the lead scoring in the third, fourth and seventh inning, but Naugatuck couldn’t come all the way back.
“We had our opportunities,” Naugatuck head coach Rob Dibble said. “Ricky did a great job keeping us in the game, but we ended up leaving the tying run at second base.”
Naugatuck gave Waterbury, the top team in Zone 5, a run for their money July 2 as Jason Bradley took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Waterbury pitcher Jamie Butler held Post 17 without a hit as both pitchers were hurling gems.
Waterbury ended Bradley’s no-hit bid with a leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh. Bradley issued a walk to keep the force out in tact before a single sent home the games only run in a 1-0 loss for Naugatuck.
“Both pitchers were phenomenal,” Dibble said. “We didn’t give Jason any support with our bats, and that made it two straight one-run losses to the top two teams in the Zone.”
Post 17 had a chance July 4 to stem the tide, but saw the potential game-winning run taken away in the seventh against Easton. Kyle Plasky appeared to have scored on a sacrifice fly from Chris Anderson, but on the appeal the runner was ruled to have left the base early and the game went to extra innings.
Naugatuck ended up with its third straight one-run loss in a 5-4 setback in 13 innings. Kyle Plasky went six innings on the hill followed by Bradley with three and two-thirds in relief and Anderson going the final two and two-thirds.
Post 17 dropped a 7-1 decision in the second game of the twin-bill to Easton with Ethen Mester going the distance on the mound.
Naugatuck tumbled further down the standings in Zone 5.
“We were missing a few of our key guys and we had to bring up some Junior Legion players to fill the void,” Dibble said. “We thought we had the game won and then it goes 13 innings. They don’t get much tougher than that.”
In the first game of a double header on Sunday Naugatuck trailed New Milford by a 3-2 margin when Anderson, who went six innings, surrendered four runs in the fifth. Post 17 battled back to cut the gap at 7-4 heading into the seventh inning.
Andrew Minchella got it started with a single. Kyle Plasky drew a walk and Bradley singled to load the bases. New Milford managed to close the door getting Anderson to fly out sending Naugatuck to its fifth loss in a row.
Naugatuck ended its slide when Matt Whitney, in his first game on the hill this season, spun a four-hitter at New Milford in a 3-1 win. Whitney and Anderson had big hits as Post 17 scored one run in the first and two in the second for all the runs it would need. Bradley added two hits to help pace the offense.
“Matt did a great job for us in his first start of the year on the mound,” Dibble said. “This Zone has turned into a horse race. The top five teams make the playoffs. We are a middle-of-the-pack team that shows flashes of brilliance. It’s all up to us. We have seven games left and we are in fifth place with a couple of teams breathing down our back.”
Post 17 fell to Oxford, 5-2, on Thursday. Naugatuck stands at 11-10 with Oxford in sixth at 10-10 and Easton right behind at 10-11.
Naugatuck will visit Monroe on Friday and return home on Saturday to face Oakville at 11 a.m.