The Oxford Post 174 American Legion baseball team took two out of four matchups this week to improve to a record of 7-5, placing it third in Zone V behind Waterbury and Oakville.
Before closing out the week with a 4-0 loss to Monroe Post 176 on Thursday and a 7-2 loss to Waterbury on Sunday, coach Dan Kudej’s squad earned back-to-back victories against Prospect (1-13) and New Milford (5-4).
“We have a young team, and we’re in the middle of the pack right now,” Kudej said. “A lot of the teams we play are more experienced than we are, so that’s a hurdle we have to face.
“Our pitching is good, so that’s our strong point… Our defense has to be a little more consistent, and our offense just has to find a groove.”
Chris Keithline took the mound for Oxford in its June 25 matchup against Prospect-Beacon Falls Post 194/25, throwing a complete game and yielding three hits — while striking out 11. He allowed a single unearned run in the sixth inning on one hit and two errors.
The game remained scoreless until the top of the third, when Oxford got on the board with a lone run.
Adam Baktis led off with a single, stole second and advanced to third on a fly ball out. He scored on a two-out single by Steven Mahoney.
Chris Sutay and Dan Kudej reached base in the fourth inning, and moved to second and third on a bunt by Ryan Peterson. One batter later, Baktis delivered with two outs, lining a single to take the score to 3-0.
Oxford got off to a slow start in the fifth, but rebounded for a two-out rally.
Dylan Mitola drew a walk with two down and stole second. He scored when Kudej ripped a double. Sutay followed up with a double to score Kudej and Post 174 closed out the inning with a 5-0 lead.
The offense continued its hit parade in the top of the sixth, tacking on an additional three runs on three hits.
Dan Osborn was hit by a pitch with two outs and Erik Baktis singled. The pair was driven in on a double by Mahoney, stretching the lead to 7-0. Batting in the two-spot, Mitola worked the count to 3-1 before lining a single to drive in Mahoney.
Oxford capped off its 13-run, 13-hit day with five more runs in the top of the seventh.
Sutay, Peterson and Louis Cutaneo knocked consecutive no-out singles to load the bases, before Adam Baktis drew a walk to force in a run. Osborn grounded to short for a fielder’s choice, scoring Peterson and putting runners on the corners.
Baktis, Mahoney, and Mitola followed up with three more consecutive singles to drive in Oxford’s final three runs of the game.
Fresh off the 13-1 win, Oxford returned home to face New Milford on June 26.
Sutay pitched for Oxford, allowing four runs and five hits while striking out six.
New Milford drew first blood, scoring a run in the top of the first on a leadoff single and a two-out double, but Oxford tied the score in the bottom of the second on a walk and some heads-up baserunning.
Post 174 tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth. Sutay led off with a double and advanced to third when Kudej reached on an error. Sutay scored on a single by Kyle Chudoba, giving Oxford a 2-1 lead.
New Milford surged ahead on a pair of runs in the top of the sixth, but Oxford would not be silenced.
Trailing 3-2, Mahoney and Sutay knocked back-to-back no-out singles to open up the inning.
Kudej then drew a walk to load the bases for Chudoba, the cleanup hitter. Chudoba singled, driving in Mahoney, before Sutay was thrown out at home trying to press his luck on a second run.
Mitola scored Kudej and Chudoba on a two-out single, once again putting Oxford in front.
Post 174 took that 5-3 lead into the top of the seventh, and though Sutay allowed a run in the seventh and saw another runner reach third on a walk and an error, he struck out two batters to end the threat and seal the deal on Oxford’s win.
Post 174 ended the week on a low note, losing 4-0 to Masuk on Thursday and suffering a 7-2 defeat at the hands of Waterbury on Sunday morning.
Oxford will host Oakville (11-4) on Sunday in a doubleheader set to begin at 11 a.m.