BY KEN MORSE
There was much to celebrate for the Naugatuck 19U American Legion baseball team after winning the zone title for the first time in 16 years. It didn’t come without a lot of drama as Post 17 took a 14-13 knuckle-scraper from Milford to help complete a doubleheader sweep late in the regular season. Naugy finished the regular season at 14-7 while Milford was 13-9.
Naugy had it going at the plate and on the mound. Armed with a pitching staff of Blake Stone, Andrew Tyszka, Tyler Giambra, Brady Evon, Ryan Donnelly and Ryan Tyszka, Post 17 surrendered the least amount of runs in Zone 2 (104).
When it came to putting runs on the board, Naugy was second in the zone (149), and it scored via timely hitting, manufacturing runs on the base paths and putting together some incredible comebacks.
They needed a comeback in the first game of the state tournament. Post 17 was placed in the Southern Division and drew a first round bye. Naugy faced NCL in the second round July 22 with Andrew Tyszka on the hill. A late comeback came up short at Post 17 fell, 10-8.
A leadoff single followed by a walk opened the door to a three-run NCL outburst as Naugy quickly fell behind. Post 17 battled back and had the bases loaded in the bottom of the second on singles from Donnelly and Evon with James Duda Jr. taking one for the team. Unfortunately, Naugy stranded 14 baserunners.
“We allowed a lot of walks, made some errors and had some mental mistakes,” said Naugy coach James Duda. “Really had no business being in the game, but yet there we were at the end with a chance to win it. That says a lot about the character of this team. They never quit.”
Post 17 was trailing, 7-0, in the bottom of the fourth when they erupted with a six-run burst that got them back in the game. Ryan Montini and Joe Matusovich had run-scoring singles to plate Evon and Duda after they reached on errors. A walk to Anthony Abate had the sacks full when Ryan Tyszka unloaded a grand slam.
It was a 7-6 game only briefly as NCL continued to put runs across the plate. Ryan Tyszka and Stone couldn’t slam the door shut on the mound. It was a 10-8 game when Naugy again loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh but a force out at the plate and a groundout to second ended the game.
“We are better than that,” said Duda. “We needed to make the adjustment sooner than we did. They were hitting their spots and we were swinging at pitches we don’t normally swing at. We were too far back in the box and not getting to the curveball before it breaks. We have been coming back all season long so even when we were down 7-0 no one was pressing and we started to put it together. We just couldn’t keep them off the board.”
Naugy playing out of the losers bracket on July 23 and couldn’t get it started up again as they dropped a 4-1 decision to Ridgefield to end the season.
BY KEN MORSE