By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck U19 team narrowly missed out on the Connecticut Elite Baseball Association’s postseason tournament in an abridged season forged amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But just being back on the field this summer was a success in and of itself.
Head coach Mark Nofri and his staff of Mike D’Agnone, Jon Jagello and Walter Jagello guided Naugy to a 10-6 record in the first — and possibly only — Connecticut Elite Baseball Association season. The league came together after the National American Legion shut down all sponsorships and involvement in baseball for the 2020 season.
Naugatuck finished second in Division 5 behind Winsted, which claimed the division’s only tournament berth.
Pitching proved to a strong point for the team, which rattled off a five-game and four-game winning streak during the season. Nate Deptula, Derrick Jagello and Ryan McCarthy were staples on the hill as well as Jon Chatfield and Zack Royka.
“I can’t say enough about my coaching staff who had these kids ready to not only get back on the field but to be competitive in the process,” Nofri said.
“Pitching was one of the strengths of the team as well as a solid defense that kept is in games,” he added. “In five of the six losses, we came up short by one run.”
Deptula, who is in the National Guard, led the staff on the hill. He went 4-1 with a tidy 2.81 ERA and struck out 45 batters. Jagello (2-1) had a stingy 1.16 ERA and struck out 39. McCarthy (2-1) struck out 16 and had a 2.84 ERA. Chatfield (2-2) tallied 15 strikeouts.
Nick Bruno led the team at the plate with a hefty .420 average. Jagello, Mark Nofri, Chatfield and Austin Verab provided consistent bats. During the final week of the season, Chatfield led the team with four home runs and 11 RBI.
“I think overall the team had a successful season this summer,” Nofri said. “But the biggest success we had was just having the opportunity to get back on the field in the first place.”
Several players will continue playing in college: Royka, Verab and Bruno at Western Connecticut State University, Nofri at Springfield College, and Jagello at Southern Connecticut State University.
Others, like Chatfield who is going into his senior year at Naugatuck High, will return to high school.
“I think the experience will help the players going on to play in college have a little more confidence,” Nofri said. “And for the players in high school, after having the spring season canceled, this will at least give them a little incentive to keep up what they managed to accomplish this summer.”