NAUGATUCK — Good pitching is usually the key to a ball club’s success. Usually.
The players on the Naugatuck American Legion baseball team found out this summer, though, that that’s not always the case.
Despite possessing three spectacular arms, Post 17 finished its rollercoaster season last weekend with a 7-19 record. Greg Rice, Zac Hertel and Matthew Zahornasky all had wonderful seasons, but the tandem of aces inopportunely combined for just five wins.
“To have three pitchers at the top of the rotation with sub-four ERAs and only get five wins out of them hurts really bad,” Coach Ron Swierbitowicz said. “Greg Rice, arguably our best pitcher, didn’t get a single win all season, and he put up a 3.05 ERA, that’s just devastating.”
The pitchers were all victims of Post 17’s inconsistent offense. The team was shut out a handful of times, and on very few occasions did batters grant the hurlers much run support.
Occasional individual efforts that impressed were lost in a lineup that failed to string hits together and produce big innings.
“We flat-out didn’t hit as a team,” Swierbitowicz said. “We had some individuals that hit well over the course of the year, but we could never hit consistently. That was just the story of our season.”
The solo acts mainly came from the players at the top of Naugy’s order.
After taking a year off from baseball, Mark Wilson rejoined the teams as the starting shortstop. Wilson adjusted seamlessly, not only shining in the field but leading the offense with an team-high .328 batting average.
Rice also got in on the hitting, putting up a .304 batting average and hitting for power—he recorded eight extra-bases hits, more than half of Post 17’s total on the season. He was helped by being close in the order to Anthony McKernan, who batted .286 and always seemed to hit the ball hard to every part of the field.
Despite the dark cloud that so often lingered over Veteran’s Field at Naugatuck High School, Post 17 never gave up on the season.
“We never got down on ourselves, despite our record,” Swierbitowicz said. “The kids still played hard every game even though the results weren’t always there. It’s tough to come to the ballpark every day when you’re not getting the results, but they did it. It shows a lot of character on their part, because it’s hard to be on teams that don’t win.”
Post 17 will lose six players next season because of age limitations and will look to add young talent to complement the core of players it has coming back. Swierbitowicz is hopeful that, although next year’s team will be young, it will avenge and improve upon this summer’s performance.
“We’re going to take a good look at who’s ready to move up from the junior level next year to make an impact, because we’re going to need it,” Swierbitowicz said. “We’ll be young, but that doesn’t have to mean we’re going to struggle. We return Zahornasky, we return our starting catcher, Mehmedi, and we return McKernan, one of our better hitters. So we are returning big pieces of the puzzle.”