By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — Facing injuries, vacations and other obligations, Naugatuck Post 17 hit a rough patch late in the regular season.
“We haven’t been at full strength in a while with players being out,” Naugatuck head coach James Duda said. “But like I have been saying, these guys are baseball players and I have no reservations of putting anyone out there at any position.”
Post 17 lost three straight games to fall to 9-8. Despite the stumble, Naugatuck’s spot in the state tournament is secured.
“We were fortunate to have wrapped up our bid to qualify for the state tournament early on during a four-game winning streak,” Duda said.
Naugatuck has three make-up games left on the schedule before the 32-team, single-elimination state tournament begins Aug. 3.
“These final games will determine seedings and who we will face,” Duda said. “But like I told the team when you get into the tournament anything can happen and it really doesn’t matter who you play in the first couple of rounds.
“Sooner or later you will need to play the number one or two seed in order to move on so it doesn’t matter if you play them early on or later you still need to get past those teams to move on.”
The first two rounds of the tournament will be played at the higher seed, with teams broken down into Northern and Southern regions.
The semifinals and championship rounds of the tournament are set for Aug. 5-8 at South Windsor Rotary Field for the Northern region and at Meriden’s Ceppa Field for the Southern region.
Several players have stepped up lately with Post 17 not being at full strength.
Duda used three different players at catcher — none of them had played the position since Little League. Matt Stefan, Alex Sosa and Brady Evon filled in admirably while regular catcher Mike Deitelbaum was away at football camp.
“It has given us the opportunity to go out there and play baseball with whoever is here,” Duda said. “What has been encouraging is this team never shows any quit.”
That was evident July 23 in a 14-7 loss to Bristol at Muzzy Field.
Post 17 fell behind 5-0 after two innings. Naugy battled back to make it 5-4 going into the bottom of the fourth. Bristol extended its lead to 11-4 before Naugatuck answered with three runs in the top of the sixth. Bristol put the game away with three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
James Duda, Derrick Jagello and Ryan Tyszka each drove in runs for Naugatuck.
Brady Evon pitched six innings, allowing just three hits, in a 1-0 loss to Berlin on July 24. Duda pitched for the first time in four years and allowed a hit and struck out one in one inning of work.
Post 17 fell, 6-2, to Avon on July 27 for its third straight loss.
With the season wrapping up, Duda’s thankful for the opportunity to play this season.
“I can’t thank our GM Paul D’Agnone or Post 17’s John DeBisschop for all the behind-the-scenes work they have done with rescheduling due to weather to give us the opportunity to have a season this year,” Duda said.
“My coaching staff of Brian Evon and Mike D’Agnone have been very encouraging to the players in keeping their head in the game. We are all looking forward to this opportunity to play in the state tournament.”