THE SERIES: Thomas, Schiaroli, Mowrey were part of the three Naugy teams
BY MARK JAFFEE
Editor’s Note: There have been other great high school athletic winning streaks over the past half-century, but none carry the mystique that surrounds the Naugatuck High baseball team’s 64-game winning streak. from 1970 to 1972.
This is part two of a five-part series on Naugatuck’s 64-game streak, an unforgettable moment in Connecticut high school sports history.
Steve Thomas, Dave Mowrey and Rich Schiaroli stand out from the Naugatuck High baseball team‘s superb streak of success in 1970, 1971 and 1972. They were the only three players on all three rosters.
Thomas and Mowrey were co-captains as seniors as the Greyhounds’ streak reached 64 games.
As a sophomore in 1970, they didn’t expect playing time, realizing that in such a good program, they had to work their way up the roster. They understood their role.
“(Coach Ray Legenza) was loyal to the senior and upper classes, and the younger players had to prove themselves,” said Thomas, a pitcher and outfielder. “You had to wait your turn. It has always been like this.”
Thomas recalled pitching in relief for an inning or two in a game as a sophomore, then unexpectedly received a last-minute start against Notre Dame of West Haven midseason.
“I pitched well and we won 4-0, and I saw more innings after that,” Thomas said. “I felt I had proven myself.”
Mowrey had an interesting moment during his sophomore varsity call-up in the 1970 season opener against St. Bernard at Breen Field in Naugatuck.
“I was always a leading pitcher and shortstop in high school,” he noted. “I had never played in the outfield before. We were beating St. Bernard pretty well and Ray put me in the right field game in the seventh inning as a defensive backup. They had a really good left-handed hitter. I was backing up , but Ray told me to move in, so I did what he wanted me to do. The batter then hit a lineout shot between first and second base. I caught the ball from a I intended to throw the ball to second base, but ended up throwing the ball to first base.
Mowrey added, “I played a single inning in the outfield and kicked out the runner at first base. Legenza knew what he was doing. He liked my baseball instincts. My field has always been my strong point. Ray put me on third base the next day, and that’s where I played the rest of my high school days.
Schiaroli was a reserve third baseman and second baseman as a sophomore and junior, then moved to play first base as a senior.
“We had a very talented group of juniors and seniors,” said Schiaroli of the 1972 squad. “If you weren’t at the start, you better be ready in the dugout. If you were last on the bench, you better know how many pitches or how many outs there were because you never knew when you’d be called. The coach was really important on that by being mentally prepared and communicating.
Schiaroli said Legenza’s workouts were always tailored to real-world game situations, such as running with runners on base and suicidal pressures.
“When these situations arose in a game, we had already done it in training, so we were prepared,” said Schiaroli.
As a senior, Schiaroli’s best individual memory came against Notre Dame in Game 8 of the 1972 season. Naugatuck led, 6-1, before the Green Knights rallied late in the game to close the gap at 6-5.
“The bases were loaded and the batter hit a shot at first base. I managed to play the game to get us out of the round, ”recalls Schiaroli.
Naugatuck ultimately won, 6-5.
Does he remember hearing Legenza’s praise afterwards? No.
“Ray expected it,” Schiaroli said of the game. “You didn’t get a lot of rahrah, ‘good job’ from Ray. And you know what, we expected to make games too.
When Thomas and Mowrey were named team captains as seniors, neither of them expected it.
“Dave and I didn’t have the mindset to be captains,” Thomas said. “We had more college experience than the others. We were quiet kids, not rah-rah types. We accepted it and said we would do what we could. I was very honored and hoped I had done a good job.
Schiaroli said everyone is united in the team. To be part of the unforgettable series was a bit of luck.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” he said.