NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Post 17 American Legion baseball roster is filled with talent up and down the lineup. The key question early in the season is whether it will live up to its potential.
Naugatuck is third all-time with six state championships, the last being in 2001. It’s been several years since Post 17 put up a serious challenge, but with the talent on this year’s roster this could be a team that could pave its own destiny.
“I can only hope they want it as bad as the coaching staff does,” Naugatuck Post 17 head coach Rob Dibble said. “We have nine returning veterans from last year to lead the way, and we have seven players who played varsity this season for the high school. I’m being cautiously optimistic at this point. It’s up to them and the kind of commitment they are willing to put into it. Make no mistake: We have the talent to win Zone 5.”
Naugatuck showed that talent in the first game of the season last Sunday when Adam Neveski spun a complete-game four-hitter with eight strikeouts in a 5-1 win over New Milford.
The first five Naugatuck batters knocked hits as Post 17 plated three runs to take the early lead. Nolan Kinne and Seth Mulhall delivered singles before John Dean unloaded an RBI double.
The assault continued when Charles Healy and Neveski chipped in with run-scoring hits to make it 3-0.
“That was very encouraging to come out and start a game like that,” Dibble said. “We have a good mix of veterans and younger players and everyone looks ready to put some games in the win column.”
Chris Anderson drew a walk later in the game and came around to score on a double by Adam Tavares. Post 17 also got a hit from Mike Burns.
The depth of a pitching staff is always key in Legion baseball and Naugatuck is geared up for the long haul. Joining the staff on the mound will be Chris Sheedy, Ricky Plasky, Dean and Tavares. Also seeing time on the hill will be the team’s only left-hander, Ethen Mester, followed by Burns, Anderson and Ryan White.
Behind the plate Naugatuck will use Dean, Karl Johansen and Jason Bradley. The infield shapes up with a solid unit with Mulhall, Sheedy and Neveski sharing duties at first base, Burns at second base, Bradley, Dean and Kyle Lopes at shortstop, and Mike D’Agnone, Lopes and Jonathan Bisson at third.
Scott Sill, Kinne and White lead one of the most solid outfields in Zone 5. Anderson, Bisson, D’Agnone, Johansen and Mulhall add to the depth in the outfield.
“We have chance to do something that hasn’t been done in quite a while around here,” Dibble said. “But it’s going to come down to the kind of commitment that these kids are willing to give. We certainly have the talent and with 18 players on the roster we also have the depth.”
Post 17 will be back in action this week when it hosts Waterbury on Thursday and Oakville on Friday with both games scheduled for 5:45 p.m. at Rotary Field. Naugatuck will travel to Danbury on Saturday before visiting Woodland on Sunday for a doubleheader with Prospect-Beacon Falls.