Naugatuck Dogs: AABC State Champions

Naugatuck wins Stan Musial State Tournament Title
Copyright   Joe Palladino  REP-AMERICAN 08/02/2011 (video link of championship)
When someone presents you with an opportunity, the least you could do is take advantage of the chance. The Naugatuck Dogs won the Stan Musial state championship Monday evening at Trumbull High, beating Chad’s Lawncare of Bridgeport, 4-1, and meaning no disrespect, the Dogs shouldn’t have even been there. No, it’s true, Naugy was the sixth-seeded team in the Tri-State baseball league, and only the top five advance to the state tourney. But when another Tri-State team, Watertown, opted out of tourney play, a chance to compete for a state championship fell into the laps of the Dogs. Once there, Naugatuck (16-9) romped.
The Dogs rode the three-hit pitching of Lance Stevens to what is believed to be the first-ever Musial title for a Tri-State club. Stevens fanned nine and was in total control of a potent Chad’s lineup. Stevens is 29, a Bakersfield, Calif. native, who came to Connecticut when he signed to pitch for the Bridgeport Bluefish. “Now, 2 1/2 years later, I love Connecticut, I love playing with the boys, and I am proud of what we accomplished,” Steven said. Here is another odd-but-true fact about the Naugatuck victory: Stevens hasn’t pitched for the team in a month, and has thrown, maybe, 20 innings for the team. “He was injured,” said manager Jay Harlamon, who explained that it was a cracked ribbed that had the lanky righty sidelined. “We just told him that we wanted him ready when we got to the big game. He called me at 9 in the morning (Monday) and said, ‘I’m ready.'” Stevens said he used four-seam and two-seam fastballs, a change-up and a knuckle curve. “It was one of those days when you don’t have a pitch you don’t trust,” he added.
This win also comes only two days after Chad’s (19-14) had rallied from a 4-0 deficit to defeat Naugatuck in early-round tourney play, 5-4. Naugatuck went to school in that loss. “We left balls out over the plate,” said Dogs catcher Kyle Faucher. “But (Stevens) had command of his fastball, got ahead in counts, and I was able to utilize what I learned from the last game to get outs.” They had a game plan on the mound, but also in the lineup. Harlamon had moved Jeff Sturm to the lead-off spot in the order late in the season, and that sparked Naugy. Sturm had two hits Monday, Ryan Russell added a double and RBI single, and in the decisive three-run third inning, Jamie Kimberly, Russell, and Faucher all had run-scoring singles.
So now, after winning the Musial state title, the Dogs can look ahead to the Tri-State Baseball League playoffs that begins this Saturday August 6th. Chad’s, the state runner-up, and Wolcott Scrappers and the Waterbury Wild from Tri-State, all qualified out of the regional bracket portion of the state tournament and advance to the Musial regional in Braintree, Mass beginning Thursday August 4th.
Naugatuck’s Devin Murphy knew he had to deliver a couple of big hits on Sunday if he wanted to give his team a shot of advancing in the Stan Musial state tournament, especially after he wasn’t able to attend his team’s one-run loss to the Chad’s of Bridgeport on Saturday.
And boy did he deliver.
Murphy cracked a walk-off grand slam to mercy rule the Milford Hunters in the first game of the day, 11-0. Then in his very next at-bat in the first inning of the Dogs’ second game, he smoked a three-run shot deep into the trees at the Wolcott BAW Complex in o give Naugatuck a quick three-run lead over the Tri-Town Trojans. He followed that up by recording the clinching out of the game to preserve a 4-3 win in the semifinals of the tournament. The win propelled the Dogs into a rematch with Chad’s tonight in the title game at Trumbull High at 8. Murphy guided his team to a feat that not many Tri-State League teams have accomplished — a trip to the Musial final.
According to League Commissioner Ed Gadomski, the Brass City Brew squad from 2008, who fell to All-Star Batting out of Danbury, is the only Tri-State team to advance to the state championship game in the last 25 years. “It is a big accomplishment for all of the teams from the Tri-State league,” Gadomski said. “People have always thought of our league as the old-man league and we wouldn’t ever get too much respect but this tournament we held three of the final five teams remaining. We’re hoping that we are going to start being looked upon as one of the powerhouse leagues in the State now.”
Murphy agreed. “It’s really a privilege to represent the league which has had so many great players come through it,” Murphy said. “Every year the competition, the players and league as a whole continues to get better. A great tribute to Ed (Gadomski). We are very fortunate to be in a great position to compete for a State Championship.” Naugatuck starting pitcher Dan Connelly felt Murphy’s home run in the first inning allowed himself to relax more and to just throw strikes. “I think the team giving me a quick lead gave me a little boost and allowed me to become more comfortable out there,” Connelly said. “I just concentrated on pounding the strike zone and let my good defense make plays. And they did.”
Possibly the key moment of the game was in the top of the second inning when the Trojans loaded the bases on Connelly with no outs. Connelly then was able to induce a fly-out to leftfielder Matt Kane and the runner was forced to stay at third when Kane fired a missle to catcher Kyle Faucher. Connelly then was able to force a pop-out to third baseman Bob Augelli and another flyout to Kane to leave the bases loaded. “It was probably the difference in the game,” Murphy added. “If they broke in a few runs there then we’re in a one or two-run game so it was very big.” “He was driven,” Naugatuck catcher Kyle Faucher said. “He was locating his fastball and constantly was throwing strikes. The bases loaded jam he got out of was so crucial. He made some big-time pitches.” Connelly tossed five innings, surrendered five hits and a three-run home run to Tri-Town’s Steve Price in the top of the fifth inning. Dan Rosa closed the game out by throwing two innings of hitless relief to pick up the save.
Jeff Sturm and Macky Cianciolo both singled and scored a run for Naugatuck. The Trojans’ Kyle Osolin finished with a pair of singles. In the first game, Jeff Sturm had two hits with three runs scored while Ryan Russell added a pair of hits and two runs scored. George Harlamon contributed with a base hit and two runs scored and Murphy finished things off with the Grand Slam as the Dog’s pounded the Milford Hunters, 11-0. The Dog’s have already made a memorable run in this year’s tournament but by the looks on their faces after the game they are far from satisfied. They are ready to make history.