|The Naugatuck Dogs celebrate their first Tri-State championship. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)|
Twice before, Naugatuck had a chance to win the Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League's World Series, only to lose its grip on the trophy.
There would not be a third time, because as Dogs veteran Devin Murphy put it: "Every dog has its day."
Naugatuck's day was Wednesday. The Dogs got to Tri-Town Trojans knuckle-baller Jordie Scheiner and pulled away for an 8-4 win in Game 2 of the World Series under the lights of Waterbury's Municipal Stadium.
|The Tri-State champion Naugatuck Dogs. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)|
When a harmless fly ball settled into the glove of left fielder Ryan Plourde for the final out, the Dogs celebrated their first Tri-State championship.
Lance Stevens, a long-time Naugatuck player who has been through the heartaches of the past, pitched his team to the title with a complete-game effort. The Dogs celebrated when the final out was made, but it was also sort of a big sigh of relief.
"We’ve won state championships, but this was something we needed to X off our list," Kyle Murphy said.
"This is our third time here, we lost two series in the final game," Naugatuck coach Jay Harlaman said.
A huge key was pitching, and hurlers such as Stevens, Jeff Sturm, Kevin Murray Bryan Wyrebek and Mack Cianciolo helped the Dogs get over the top.
"We really needed the pitching, and we put it all together," Harlaman said.
Stevens, a long-time Naugatuck veteran, battled his way through a tough first few innings and settled in.
"We were warming somebody up there for a little while," Harlaman said. "Lance was getting a little upset, he was like 'shut him down, shut him down.' We were warming up Sturm, but we knew [Stevens] was going to finish, he wanted to finish the game."
Stevens said the first four innings felt like midnight with different things not going the way of the Dogs. Things changed when Naugatuck's offense began to light it up, and Stevens appreciated the help.
"When they hit, it takes off a ton of pressure," Stevens said. "I get to rest, I can relax and watch them run the bases. I can make adjustments myself mentally, so it helps out tremendously."
Kyle Murphy's two-run double in the top of the third inning put Naugatuck ahead to stay, 3-2. In the fourth, the Dogs added four more runs to widen their lead to 7-2. Jeff Rustico had his second RBI single of the game after Mack Cianciolo's leadoff double. Ryan Russell singled, then an error on a fielder's choice off the bat of Sean Miller-Jones with one out allowed Rustico to score. Ryan Plourde's sacrifice fly scored Russell to make it 6-2, then a passed ball brought Miller-Jones in for a 7-2 score.
"The offense, 1 through 9, we’re putting runners on and getting big hits," Jay Harlaman said.
Devin Murphy drove in the final Naugatuck run -- Miller-Jones -- with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Tri-Town scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to get to 8-4, but Stevens slammed the door shut after that.
"We put up some runs, and I kind of caught a second wind at the end," Stevens said.
Kyle Murphy gave credit to his pitchers.
"Yeah, we did put up a lot of runs in this league tournament, but I don’t think we can win a game without our pitching performances," Kyle Murphy said.
Add some good defense, and all the ingredients were there for a Tri-State championship recipe. This one will taste the sweetest because it's the first for the Dogs.
"It’s really a pleasure to coach these guys," Jay Harlaman said. "They make it a lot of fun, a lot of fun. A lot of very good chemistry on this team."
A long summer came to an end on Wednesday for Naugatuck, but it did so with the ultimate prize, a Tri-State championship.