Legion baseball: Shelton Post 16 heating up

T.J. O’Sullivan looks to throw a runner out. — Andy Hutchison photos

As the summer wood bat American Legion baseball season winds down, Shelton Post 16 is heating up.

Shelton nipped one of the top teams in Zone V, host Naugatuck 2-1 on Thursday, and blanked host Danbury 6-0 on Sunday.

Against Naugatuck, starting pitcher Ryan Murphy went 5 2/3 innings on 99 pitches. He allowed six hits, struck out six and walked one. John Bucci relieved and recorded a four-out save.

Naugatuck strung together three hits and scored a run in the bottom of the first, but Shelton limited the damage thanks to a double play turned by shortstop Will Ciccone and second baseman Colin Mengold to end the inning.

Shelton answered in the top of the third.

Ciccone walked, Murphy doubled and Ciccone scored on a wild pitch. Murphy came in with the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice.

“The win was a little unexpected since we were a little short handed,” Shelton coach Tom Murphy said. “Ryan pitched great. His off-speed pitches kept Naugatuck off balance a good part of the game.”

Key defensive plays preserved the lead. Catcher Shaun Hillis denied a steal with a strong throw to second in the bottom of the fifth. Bucci snared a line drive up the middle.

Shaun Hills tags a runner out on the first base line.

“Yesterday, was an unexpected win. Both (assistant coach Dave Meyer and I) felt we stole one. Amazing that a close win like that changes the attitudes of the players pretty quickly, meaning they were happy to finally win another close one and were looking forward to the next game,” coach Murphy said.

Shelton has been on the losing end of several nail-biters this season but has now beaten Naugatuck twice in one-run contests, prevailing 1-0 in June.

In the 6-0 win over Danbury, pitchers Ricardo Torres, Garrett Cafaro and Ciccone combined to scatter three hits, strike out eight batters and walk two.

Torres went three innings, didn’t allow a hit and fanned four. Cafaro also went three and struck out two. Ciccone struck out a pair in one inning of work.

Hillis doubled, drove in a run and scored two. David Wells had two hits and two RBI. Cafaro doubled and drove in a run. T.J. O’Sullivan added an RBI.

Shelton was swept at home in a doubleheader against Washington on July 3, losing 2-1 and 6-2.

In the opener, Cafaro and Torres singled and Matt DeFelice hit a sacrifice fly for the Shelton run. Washington capitalized on some Shelton miscues to escape with the win despite strong pitching from Bucci and Cafaro.

Shelton improved to 7-11 and, as of Tuesday, stood in sixth place, a game behind fifth-place Washington and four and a half behind fourth-place Waterbury. The top four teams in the zone make the state postseason tournament.

Beginning with Tuesday’s home game against Waterbury, Shelton has six games remaining.

“Playoffs are an extreme long shot. However, we look forward to playing Waterbury. We haven’t talked about being a spoiler yet, but we will scare some teams coming up because we are playing  better,” Tom Murphy said.

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