Watertown takes home the Tri-State Championship with a 3-1 win over Naugatuck. Win best of three, two games to one.
TORRINGTON: It was just fitting that the two best teams in the Tri-State Baseball League, the Watertown Blaze and the Naugatuck Dogs would battle through a three game series before deciding a champion.
Heck, the two teams combined to post a 33-3 record during the regular season with the Dogs handing the Blaze their only loss during the long summer of 2016.
On Wednesday night, the Blaze got some stellar pitching from starter Charlie Benson and Matt Quintano and just enough timely hitting to be the last team standing in a 3-1 win at Fuessenich Park.
“We have played an awful lot of baseball over the last month,” Blaze manager Jay Spear said. “Our guys kept battling. They beat a really good team over there.”
After splitting the first two games with Watertown taking the first game by a 4-2 score and the Dogs coming away with a 5-2 win in game two, it came down to what is usually does in this terrific league, one chocked full of tremendous players, a one game take all contest.
The Dogs would strike first when catcher Jeff Rustico lined a home run to left leading off the second inning against Benson who went six innings, allowing just that one run on two hits.
Watertown would get that run back quickly in their half of the same frame thanks to a lined double down the right field line that plated Chris Comeau who led off the inning with the team’s first hit.
Naugatuck kept pressure on Benson but paid for leaving the bases loaded twice, once in the third inning, the next in the fifth.
Benson would maneuver his way out of trouble in those innings and in the sixth, he got a stellar defensive play from left fielder Chris Ayer who dove for a foul ball that he ran a country mile to get to.
The Blaze would take the lead in the bottom of the fourth when the number nine hitter, Matt Paola lined a two-out single into no-man’s land between short and left field that scored Nick DeLotto who had single with one out.
Watertown got a terrific sacrifice bunt from catcher Matt Calzone that set up the run scoring opportunity that Paola delivered on.
Neither team seemed like this was going to be the night that they came up with a clutch hit when it counted.
Naugy left those two bases loaded shots go by the wayside, as did the Blaze in their half of the seventh when they failed to score with the sacs full and just one out.
Champions keep on fighting and in the bottom of the eighth, the Blaze got that all important insurance run.
DeLotto singled to left to start the frame and moved to second on a walk to Paola.
With two outs, leadoff hitter Ayer came through with a single to left that plated DeLotto and handed Quintano a two run lead to protect in the ninth.
The former Torrington Titan and former Futures Collegiate Baseball League Pitcher of the Year in 2014 as a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks lit up the inning by striking out the side.
“I was so pumped in that ninth inning,” Quintano said. “I really wanted that last strike out.”
So another fine season comes to an end for a league that put on another great show in 2016 that ends with the World Series trophy belonging to the Watertown Blaze.