Focus Center For Autism
Tri-State All Star Game Saturday June 29
2:30PM, Fussenich Park

2019 Tri-State Champions: Terryville Black Sox

Game 1: Terryville Black Sox 4    Naugatuck Dogs 2

Kody Kerski came on in relief with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the bases loaded and struck out the Dogs clean-up hitter to save Game 1 for Terryville as they defeated Naugatuck by a final score of 4-2. Ken Kerski started the game on the mound for the Black Sox and pitched six innings allowing just three hits before giving way to reliever Jared Gallegher after Kerski walked the first two batters to open the seventh. Naugy broke through with their only runs of the game in the seventh on a two-run single by Sean Miller-Jones. The theme of the night was stranded base runners for Naugy who had 11 men stranded in the first 6 innings and ended the game with the bases loaded.

Meanwhile, Nick DeLotto homered in the second inning for Terryville, who scored two more runs in the sixth inning on RBI singles by Christian Callahan and Kyle Skidmore, and capped their scoring with a Gavin Lavallee crushed home run to deep left center field in the bottom of the seventh. Naugy’s Kevin Murray and Adam Navesky limited Terryville to just 6 hits on the game but the Black Sox made every hit count.

Game 2:  Terryville Black Sox 5    Naugatuck Dogs 1

Fans were treated to a pitching clinic on Friday night August 23 after two straight nights of Thunderstorms cancelled games both Wednesday and Thursday, Kody Kerski, who spent 4 seasons in the Seattle Mariners organization, took the hill for the Black Sox and popped the catchers glove all night long as his 90mph fastball was whizzing towards home plate. Kerski was opposed by Tri-State veteran Lance Stevens, whom himself has Independent ball experience, and the two did not disappoint the baseball purists as they put on a pitching clinic.Naugatuck was making its third World Series appearance in four seasons winning a league championship in 2017. Terryville was looking for its first banner in twelve seasons in the league. The Black sox lost last years World Series to the Tri-Town Trojans.

Stevens did not allow a hit until the sixth inning when Kyle Tehan’s RBI single scored Billy Armstrong from second base with the games first run as Terryville took a 1-0 lead. Not to be outdone, the heart of the Naugy lineup performed some two-out magic as Kyle Murphy started things with a bomb to center field and ended up on second base. Following an intentional walk to 2018 league MVP Ryan Plourde, Devin Murphy’s single scored his brother Kyle with the tying run as the sixth inning ended tied at one apiece.

The Black Sox were back at it in the top of the 7th as Justin McCulloch led off the inning with a double, went to third on a fielders choice, and scored on an Ian Schmidt sac fly. Tyler Wenz added a two run single later in the frame as the Black Sox took a 4-1 lead. Meanwhile, Kody Kerski was dealing on the mound and had no plans on handing the ball back to ayone who was going to try and take it from him. Kerski finished with 15 strikeouts on the mound going the 9 inning distance, allowing just three hits all game – result – a celebration on the mound when the last out was recorded. Final score: Terryville 5 – Naugatuck 1

Tri-state has now had 10 different league champions crowned in the past 13 seasons. Opening Day 2020: Sunday May 17

Shaking off the rust: SHS baseball alum is still going

Copyright By KEVIN ROBERTS Southington observer 8/29/19

Southington native Jeff Rustico has been catching since he was seven or eight years old. Rustico’s father and former coach, Dave, was also a catcher. “That’s all I know how to do,” he said.

Jim Gugliotti, an assistant coach under Dave Rustico when he was the head coach of Southington Post 72 American Legion baseball, had this to say about Jeff back in 2004 after the younger Rustico earned all-star accolades: “He’s the best catcher in the state. Hands down,” Gugliotti said to the Observer. “I’ve seen him kill so many rallies by throwing kids out on the bases that it’s unbelievable. He’s got an unbelievable arm. He’s a great hitter. He’s got it all. He’s smart, knows the game really well and he’s a good kid.”

Fast forward 15 years to 2019, and much of the same is still said about former Blue Knight. “When you talk about someone and say he’s a good player but an even better person, that’s Rustico,” said Ray Gulick, assistant coach of the Naugatuck Dogs in the Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League. According to his current coach, Rustico is willing to do what it takes to get on the field and help his team win. Now, at 33, he was slowed by an uncooperative back when the Tri-State season began. Catching wasn’t much of an option, but Rustico found another way to help out the Dogs. He became a pitcher, and a solid one at that. Rustico won the clinching game of the best-of-three Tri-State semifinal series against the Tri-Town Trojans. He pitched a nine-inning complete game in the 7-2 victory and gave up two runs on eight hits. He struck out 10 Trojan batters as the Dogs swept the semifinal series and reached the World Series. Postseason games in Tri-State are nine innings, seven in the regular season. “I think he pitched against Tri-Town early in the season, threw a complete game. I think we beat them 4-1,” Naugatuck manager Jay Harlamon said. “He’s just a veteran, knows how to mix up his pitches. He doesn’t throw real, real hard, keeps you off-balance, he just knows the game.” Rustico deferred to his teammates and their offensive output. “We were short on arms,” Rustico said when asked why he decided to pitch. “I feel like if you can just throw strikes in this league, we’ve got a really good defense. As you can see, they put a ton of balls in play. I think they had [eight hits], but our defense is phenomenal, so I just let them put the ball in play.”

The Dogs saw their run end against the Terryville Black Sox in the World Series, where they were swept, 2-0. Rustico pitched in relief in the second game of the series, a 5-1 loss, and gave up a run on two hits. He walked two and struck out one in 2.1 innings. Rustico walked twice and scored a run in the first game, a 4-2 loss. “I always said until I can’t walk anymore,” Rustico said about still playing the game at 33. “It’s getting there.”

At Southington High School, Rustico’s Blue Knights shared the CCC South Division title with Bristol Central in his senior year in 2004. He was selected to the 31st Connecticut Coaches Baseball All-Star Game and represented the state in the annual all-star game between Connecticut and Massachusetts. Rustico’s rise began the year before as a SHS junior, when he earned the Abate Family Most Improved Player Award. He was also a three-time Zone 1 all-star (2002, 2003, 2004) for the Post 72 Legion squad.

Rustico went on to play at American International College in Springfield, Mass., for four seasons from 2005-2008. Rustico’s ability as a catcher stood out, to say the least. As a freshman, he threw out 26 of 42 runners (61.9 percent) who tried to steal on him. Even Rustico’s “lowest” percentage of runners thrown out—38.7 (12-31) in his senior season in 2008 – is still much higher than the major league average. For his career, Rustico threw out 54.3 percent of those who tried to swipe a base (69-127). Rustico served as an assistant coach at AIC for a season in 2009, then had a one-game stint with the Worcester Tornadoes of the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball in 2010. Rustico played for the Dohren Wild Farmers, a German professional baseball team, in 2011 and 2012. Rustico was a major offensive leader for Dohren in both seasons, and he compiled a .982 fielding percentage behind the plate in 2012.

Rustico caught on with the Naugatuck Dogs in 2013 and has been playing for them since. “I knew Murph [teammate Devin Murphy], I used to work with him, and he asked if I wanted to come play,” Rustico said. “We used to play together in the [Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League] on People’s. He left there, skip [Harlamon] had this team, and that’s all she wrote. A great group of guys, that’s kind of why I come out and still play.” Even if it means slipping on shoes that don’t have laces. Before his back began to bother him, Rustico was a force behind the plate in Tri-State. “He really knows the game. He was by far the best catcher in the league,” Harlamon said.

On a team with some muscular players, Rustico doesn’t stand out initially. “If you were picking a catcher out of our team, you wouldn’t pick Rustico, just by looking at him,” Gulick said. That perception changed when Rustico assumed his position behind home plate. “He’s the general behind the plate, he sees everything,” Harlamon said. “He sees things before they happen, he’s that kind of kid.”

As long as he’s able, Rustico will be there to help the Dogs be the best they can be. That’s all he’s known in his baseball life.

Autism Tri-State All-star game

What a day to remember- Saturday June 22 !! Starting with the weather, which was forecasted for storms all afternoon – but the skys’ cleared and it was a picture perfect sunny day for the entire game. Matter of fact, the only complaint of the day was sunburn that fans encountered from the hot rays we saw all day long. Public announcer Chris McKenna with assistant David Benson handled the booth, and Litchfield County Sports owner Tim Gaffney was present to photograph all events of the day, including the first pitch ceremony and a tremendous singing performance by Autism’ very own Alex Schein, that brought about the largest hand of the day from a very enthusiastic crowd. Capping off the pre-game festivities – with a cover worthy photo of Tri-State All-Stars and representatives from Focus Center For Autism.

“We feel like rock-stars” stated Autism leaders. “This is a day that our clients will never forget”. Each autism participant thanked us for the experience and for being able to keep the baseball they threw during the ceremony. Two full containers of donations collected goes a long way when you are a non-profit organization. Thank you to Umpire Steve Carosella for taking charge on the field, wasn’t easy with several bang-bang calls. Huge thank you to WAPJ radio for all their support, and the Rep=American for foot-noting our game in the newspaper. Val’s Vittles whom had a steady line from 2pm – 5:30pm providing all our ballpark favorite snacks at the food truck.

Head Coaches Chet Warner and Tom Dubois split up players representing all 17 teams, like a playground backyard session, choosing one player at a time and we were greeted to a nail-biter. What was noticeable was the amount of young players making their Tristate all-star debut which bowds well for the growing future of the Tri-state league. Several great plays that included a highlight reel catch in centerfield. Came down to bottom of the seventh inning, with two outs, bases loaded and down by two runs, a deep drive into left-center field was run down by center fielder Jimmy Spirito to save a 3-1 final score victory. “Everybody was really nice” stated one young Northwestern player. Even the veterans on the field stated “we really liked the team we had”… Just a great day to be remembered by Tri-state and Autism alike.

Monarch Jim Bouton has place in Tri-State history

It was sad to hear the news of the passing of former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton on July 10, the author of the tell-all “Ball Four,” who reportedly died Wednesday following a battle with a brain disease. In 2012, he suffered a pair of strokes. The Newark native — number 56 — won two World Series games and was a 20-game winner. He spent ten years with Major League baseball. Bouton’s book created significant controversy as it detailed the love life of Yankees legend Mickey Mantle, the widespread use of stimulants by players, among other scandalous topics.

Bouton made his Major League debut with the Yankees in 1962 and would go on to win 62 games in the big leagues and compile a most respectable 3.57 earned run average before injuries curtailed his career. Bouton appeared in 36 games during the 1962 season, including 16 starts, and had a win-loss record of 7-7. While he did not play in the Yankees’ 1962 World Series victory over the San Francisco Giants he had been slated to start game seven before rainout allowed ace Ralph Terry to take the mound. Bouton went 21-7 and 18-13 in the next two seasons, and appeared in the 1963 All-Star Game. He was 2-1 with a 1.48 ERA in World Series play.

Bouton played for the Amenia Monarchs following his pro career. In 1992, the former Yankee who still threw a mean knuckler, 53 at the time, pitched four games for Amenia that year and won three of them, including a start against Lakeville where Bouton pitched eight innings, allowed five hits and two runs to take the victory. Battery mate Mike Kohut, who mever misses an inning behind the plate, is also 53, for the regular season league leading Amenia Monarchs.

One quick story that comes to mind, in 1992, ESPN sent a crew out to Amenia to profile Bouton who was scheduled to pitch that day for the Monarchs. Amenia had only 8 players show for the game and suffered its first forfeit since 1934. Needless to say, there was no game video on ESPN that night…

The heart-breaking read reminded me of one of the greatest nights in Tri-State history, when the Tri-State all-stars clashed with the Torrington Titans on 4th of July, 2011. Former New York Yankee All Star, Jim Bouton, threw out the first pitch on that Monday evening at Fuessenich Park.Bouton then came out to pitch the fourth inning, after an audio playing of legendary Yankee announcer Robert Leo Shephard “Ladies and gentleman, now pitching, Number 56, Jim Bouton” and proceeded to pitch a scoreless fourth, much to the delight of a large crowd (900 people). And important to note: The Titans never got a ball out of the infield against the, at the time, 72 year-old Bouton.

Former American Idol star William Hung, famous for his delightful rendition of “She Bangs” (originally a Ricky Martin song), performed his signature song along with other hits throughout the night.

Other attractions included a skydiver carrying an American Flag, who landed on the field at Fussenich Park at 6:58 p.m., just before the first pitch. The “All in Band” performed from 3:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. at the park while a Home Run Derby (4 p.m) took place on the field in front of nearly 400 people. Kids ages 10-15 were allowed on the field to help shag baseballs during the Derby. Admission to the Derby was free but donations were accepted at the door to benefit the Glenn Winn, Jr. Campership program, a United Way of Northwest Connecticut fund.

The Torrington Titans played three games against the Tri-State all-stars over a 3 year span, record: 1 win, 1 loss, 1 tie

A Dream Comes True

Just wanted to take a minute and let you know that the Tribury team yesterday helped make a kids dream come true. I’ve had a kid named Russell Boyles on my Amenia team for two years. Russell attends SUNY Cobelskill college, and is the only college player on the Monarchs roster. His grandfather Bob came to every Monarchs game right up until his death. His grandson (Russell) was born physically handicapped (Cerebral Palsy) but loves the game as much as his grandfather did. For Christmas 2 years ago his parents and I gave him a Monarchs uniform and I called him and asked if he’d be interested in joining the team. As you can imagine his reaction was priceless. Yesterday, with the help of Tribury, I was able to get him his first at bat. Down only 1 run with 2 outs in the 7th I gave him his shot. He got beaned on the first pitch! Most would think that would be terrible! Not Russell. He smiled and slowly lumbered his way down to first. When I asked him if he needed a runner his responses’ was “ Are you kidding? I just got beaned and now I’m running the bases, NO WAY!” Next batter flied out and Amenia lost again, although this loss wasn’t really a loss. I just wanted to express Russell’s, Russell’s family, and my own gratitude to Tribury! Class act all the way around, and a great game of baseball in Amenia. “Russell is such a great kid and got to live out his dream” stated head coach Tom Downey. “These are the stories and experiences that keep me on as commissioner” stated Ed Gadomski. “It’s not the winning and losing, it’s not the scheduling or dealing with umpires or frustrated players. Its life experiences that ‘outway’ the un-fun part… I also said I took this job on as it was my chance to give back. This is exactly what I meant, life changing stories along with fundraiser ball games for charity”.

Thank you to Tom Downey, Amenia Monarchs and the Tribury Cave.

                               

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