NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck American Legion baseball team got off to a 4-1 start and sat tied for the Zone 5 lead before stumbling against the top two competitors.
Post 17 fell, 10-0, to Zone 5 leader Waterbury June 17. The next day, Post 17 faced Oakville, the Zone 5 champs in six of the last seven seasons, and lost, 4-0.
That didn’t bode well for a Naugatuck team that is trying to take back the reins in Zone 5. Post 17 got back on the winning track over the weekend pulling out a 5-4 cliff hanger against Prospect-Beacon Falls, and then upending Danbury on Monday by a 5-2 final margin.
Heading into the third week of the season Naugatuck (6-3) is back in the hunt for the title in Zone 5. Waterbury (7-1) is in first place with Oakville (6-2) breathing down their neck. Naugatuck is in the thick of it in third.
“When we have our full roster we can compete with anyone in the Zone,” Naugatuck head coach Rob Dibble said. “Waterbury is extremely tough and they have the pitching for the long haul. Oakville is feisty and they are not about to let it slip away from them. We have the talent to make the state tournament, but we will have our hands full battling those two teams.”
On Monday, the strength of the Post 17 club showed in its pitching. Jason Bradley threw his second complete game in a 5-2 victory over Danbury.
Last Saturday at Hotchkiss Field in Prospect, starting pitcher Rick Plasky turned in a gutsy performance holding on to defeat Prospect-Beacon Falls by a slim 5-4 margin.
Naugatuck didn’t waste any time putting two-runs on the board in their first at bat versus Prospect-Beacon Falls. Kyle Plasky and John Dean got it started with base hits and a double steal had them both in scoring position. Kevin Mariano was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Rick Plasky drew a walk to force home a run.
Patrick Hughes sent a low-sinking line drive to right field. Steve Kazalunas made a diving catch on the ball, but the sacrifice fly sent Dean home for the 2-0 lead. PBF pitcher Nathan Clarke got out of further damage by getting Spencer Dreher to fly out to deep center field.
“We could have had a few more in that inning,” Dibble said. “But give them credit, they made two good defensive plays and their pitcher did a good job of mixing up his pitches and keeping us off balance.”
Naugatuck appeared to be ready to take the door off the hinges in the third inning. Dean reached base on a throwing error on a ball hit deep in the hole at shortstop. A stolen base put him in scoring position and Mariano delivered a run-scoring single to left.
Rick Plasky sent a laser down the third base side, only to have Mike Tuohy get the leather on it to rob what appeared to be an extra base hit. Hughes came through with a run-scoring single, but was thrown out on a stolen base attempt to end the uprising.
Armed with a 4-0 lead, Rick Plasky began to surrender base hits. PBF managed three hits in back-to-back innings to tie the game at 4-4 heading to the fifth inning.
Posts 194/25 tried to take over the lead when Matt Spofford led off the bottom of the fifth with a double. Kyle Plasky came to the rescue making two tough plays at second base to leave the go-ahead run stranded at third base.
Naugatuck finished it off with three consecutive hits in the seventh from Matt Whitney, Kyle Plasky and John Dean. Chris Anderson sent the eventual winning run across the plate on a fielder’s choice.
PBF threatened in the bottom of the seventh putting the tying and winning runs on base. Rick Plasky shut the door when Dean made a stellar play at third and threw the runner out from his knees to end the game.
Naugatuck will look to continue its winning ways when they travel to Oxford on Thursday. Post 17 will host Danbury in a double-header on Saturday starting at 11 a.m. On Tuesday, Naugatuck will have a rematch with PBF in a double-header at Naugatuck High School starting at 5:45 p.m.