Tri-State Playoffs

Saturday August 6:
Naugatuck Dogs  7    Torrington Rebels  1
The seventh-seeded Naugatuck Dogs demonstrated some extra advantages to a higher seed, in a convincing 7-1 win over the No. 10 Torrington Rebels in the first round of the double elimination Tri-State Baseball League Playoffs at Naugatuck High School Saturday afternoon. The Dogs earned home field advantage; more significant benefits had nothing to do with geography. Both teams finished the regular season 9-9 two weeks ago in a beautifully competitive 17-team league.
Tie-breakers and luck landed Naugatuck in the state-wide Stan Musial Tournament for the next two weeks. The top five Tri-State League teams qualify for the Musial Tournament, but nobody has to play. The Dogs got in when other teams opted not to. The rest of the 12 Tri-State Tournament teams, including Torrington, sat idle. “We were turning it up at the end of the season,” said Naugy third baseman Devin Murphy. “We came on at the right time,” said center fielder Ryan Russell.
Naugatuck went 6-1, winning the Musial Tournament, then focusing on Tri-State’s playoffs instead of moving on to the Regionals in Stan Musial. “We were focused on that tournament; now we’re focused on this one,” said Russell. “Playing all those games helps, especially when they mean something.”
That was the graphic story Saturday. The Dogs played with a well-honed hustling edge; the Rebels played like a team that hadn’t seen competition in two weeks and didn’t feel much like playing Saturday.
“We didn’t come out to play defense today,” said player/coach Curtis Anthony. “(Starting pitcher Dan Livingston’s) pitching was fine.” Livingston trailed 1-0 after the first three innings. The run was technically an earned run against him, but the difference in what then looked like a budding pitcher’s duel between Livingston (6 innings, 3 earned runs, 7 hits, 7 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 hit batter) and Naguatuck’s Ken Graveline (9 innings, 1 earned run, 4 hits, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk) turned into the growing difference in the game.
The Rebels went down in order in the first two innings. So did the Dogs in a first inning in which Livingston looked especially sharp. He struck out the first Naugatuck batter, looking. Then, after Torrington’s first error of the game, Livingston served up a double play ball to erase the damage. The second inning was another story. Livingston again struck out the lead-off better. Murphy (2-for-3, RBI, two runs scored) came next, hitting a long but catchable ball deep into left field. Murphy charged to third on a ground-out; Russell (2-for-3, 2 RBI) hit a ground ball into the bag at third, bouncing over it for an RBI single, 1-0. Torrington looked lackadaisical.
Next inning, the rest of the difference showed up. With one out, Torrington’s Jay Lovato hit a shot deep into the left field corner. Naugy’s Matt Kane sprinted after it, making a last-second snag, robbing Lovato of at least a single. The pitching duel was still on. Naugatuck’s Graveline had a distinct advantage.
“We made plays in the field,” said Naugatuck coach Jay Harlaman. “That’s always been part of our team.” Torrington’s Angelo Calabrese (2-for-2) broke the Rebel trance with a lead-off single in the top of the fourth inning for Torrington’s first hit. Calabrese stole second, beat out a would-be fielder’s choice at third and scored Torrington’s only run on a ground-out. The spark failed to catch on with Torrington.
With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth, differences piled up again. Matt Cianciolo walked. Graveline hit a single against the right field fence. Murphy lined an RBI single to left. The ball got past, good for an extra base for Graveline and Murphy. Livingston soldiered through for a strikeout, one out. A fly to right was good for the second, but the throw home was off line, sailing wide while Graveline came home, 3-1. Next inning, a Torrington pickoff throw went wild for two bases. A fly just out of a fielder’s reach scored one run. An infield throwing error scored another. A missed infield pop-up contributed to a third while the Dogs hammered out hits from Kane, Jamie Kimberly and George Harlaman. Ian Pierce pitched the Rebels’ seventh inning, giving up a final run on a walk, ground-out and hit by Russell. Austin Poucher took the eighth, for no more damage (2 strikeouts, a walk and no hits).
Meanwhile, Graveline looked stronger at the end than he did at the beginning. “I take longer to warm up than a lot of people do,” said the four-year starter for the University of Rhode Island. “I like to put a little more on it at the end.” So far in the post-season, that’s the slogan for Naugatuck’s entire team.
The Dogs play No. 2 Tri-Town Trojans at noon today at Community Field. Torrington plays again next Saturday.
Watertown Blaze  9     Thomaston Threshers  6
The No. 12 Thomaston Threshers (8-10) were the last team in for the double elimination Tri-State League playoffs when play began Saturday. Thomaston faced off against the No. 5 Watertown Blaze, who had a solid year in a balanced league at 12-6. For several innings, the Blaze overpowered the Threshers, leading 9-3 entering the top of the seventh inning. Thomaston made it a game, showing much of the fight that got them into the playoffs to begin with. The Threshers even had the tying run at the plate with two outs, but that was as close as they got to a comeback in a 9-6 loss to the Blaze. “Got a little scary in the end,” Watertown coach Ben Germain said. “We stopped hitting the ball.”
“[We] picked away,” Thomaston manager Scott Bellemare said. “A couple chances. The extra base hits really helped us out. Andy Romano led the way with two doubles and two runs scored, including a swipe of home on a double steal. Nick Urso blasted a solo home run while Eric Baba added a two-run double. Tim Collins also doubled for the Threshers. The late hitting was too late for Thomaston, who will play next Saturday in an elimination game. Watertown will face the No. 4 Waterbury Wild today at 1 p.m. at Waterville Park, weather permitting. For Watertown, the bats started early against Thresher starter Kenny Martinik.
The Blaze blasted their way to eight runs in the second and third innings on seven hits. In the second inning, Brian Lemay reached on a one-out throwing error, but the real rally began with two outs. With Lemay on third after a ground out to second, Cory Rioux singled back through the pitcher’s mound for a 1-0 lead. Vic DeSimone laced an RBI double deep to the gap in left center field to make it 2-0, then Matt Consigleo singled to put runners on first and third. After Consigleo took second on defensive indifference — no throw from the catcher with a runner on third — Sean Miller-Jones singled home DeSimone and Consigleo for a 4-0 bulge. “We were missing some guys (vacation), so we had to play some small ball,” Miller-Jones said.
Thomaston, also missing some players to vacation, got a run back in the top of the third, thanks in large part to Romano. Romano led off with a double over the right fielder’s head. Jay Lafontaine singled to put runners on first and third. With Baba at the plate, the Threshers executed a perfect double steal, and Romano scored to make it 4-1. The Blaze didn’t waste any time getting that run back, and then some, in bottom of the third. Back-to-back walks and a bunt single with no outs loaded the bases for Rioux, who again came through for an RBI single, 5-1. Martinik’s day on the mound ended when DeSimone singled home two more runs for a 7-1 lead. Consigleo was hit by a pitch from reliever Justin Chere, then Miller-Jones lofted a deep sacrifice fly to right for an 8-1 Watertown advantage.
“I got lucky on a misplayed ball,” Miller-Jones said, referring to a dropped foul pop just before his sac fly. The Threshers made up for the defensive mistake on the next play when Kevin MacCallum ran down a fly ball, then threw out a Blaze runner that had strayed too far off first to end the inning. Chere did a solid job of keeping Watertown off the board the rest of the way, but the damage had already been done. “The eight runs in the second and third [innings] killed us,” Bellemare said.
Nick Urso took a stab at jump-starting the Threshers with one swing of the bat. On a pitch from Blaze starter Brett Koliani, Urso smacked a solo home run over the right center field wall to make the score 8-2. Tim Collins walked, moved to second on a single, then stole third. When the throw to third sailed into left, Collins scored to make it 8-3. Watertown used more small ball in the fifth to tack on another run, 9-3. After Chris Ayer led off with a walk, he stole second, then reached third on a deep fly out to right. A sacrifice fly to center by Lemay brought him in. “[Coach Germain] tried to keep applying pressure,” Miller-Jones said.
Thomaston again tried to reignite the bats in the seventh. Scott Bellemare led off with a walk against reliever Justin Froese. Romano’s second double of the game put runners on second and third. With one out, Baba slammed a double to the right center field wall to make the score 9-5. The pressure increased in the eighth inning when the Threshers put up another run. Urso led off with a single, then advanced to second on a walk to Collins. Both runners moved up on an errant pickoff throw to second. With one out, Will Sirotnak’s sacrifice fly to left made the score 9-6, but reliever Lemay escaped further damage. Thomaston wasn’t done making the game interesting. In the ninth, the Threshers used a walk and an infield single to get the tying run to the plate, but Lemay got Rob McHugh to fly out to center to end the game. The bad start killed Thomaston, but the Threshers still have at least one more game left. “Any team can beat any other team on any given day,” Romano said.
Terryville Black Sox  4    Bethlehem Plowboys  3
The No. 8 Terryville Black Sox scored twice in the bottom of the eighth to beat the No. 9 Bethlehem Plowboys 4-3 in a Tri-State League playoff game at Old Terryville High School Saturday afternoon. Gary Swierzynski (3-for-3, 2 RBI) doubled home Mike Morrison (double, RBI) to tie the game at 3. Swierzynski later scored the go-ahead run on Pat Norton’s RBI single with two outs. Joe Deming came on in the ninth to slam the door and pick up the save. Dave Alarcon pitched two innings in relief of starter Tyler Wenz to get the win. Kevin Larose tripled and doubled for Terryville (10-9), which is scheduled to play the top-seeded Litchfield Cowboys today at 10 a.m. at Litchfield High School, weather permitting. Bethlehem (9-10) will play next Saturday in an elimination game. The Black Sox scored the first two runs of the game, but the Plowboys scored three times in the third to take a 3-2 lead that held up until the bottom of the eighth inning. Jason Krajeski took the loss.
Bristol Greeners  9    Amenia Monarchs  0
The Bristol Greeners defeated the Amenia Monarchs in the first-round of playoffs 9-0 on Saturday afternoon at Bristol Central High School behind a dominant pitching performance by Geoff Pierce. Pierce pitched a complete game shut-out and struck out nine. The Greeners offense was led by Dave Casanova (2-4, 2B, 2 SB) and Ryan Dudzinski who hit a 2-run homerun over the left field fence in the seventh inning. Dan Rosa, Matt Godbout, and Mike Zammett also collected hits for the Greeners. Tom Downey had two hits for the Monarchs.