WATERBURY — Naugatuck baseball is no stranger to long winning streaks — the Greyhounds’ 64-game stretch from 1970-72 is still the state record. But as with that streak, Naugy’s recent nine-game tear had to end sooner or later.
It happened on a miserably raw Tuesday afternoon in Waterbury, when the ‘Hounds managed just four hits in a 2-0 loss to Holy Cross.
Crusaders starter Kyle Skidmore went the distance with five strikeouts in the shutout, which ended Cross’ two-game losing skid.
“We didn’t hit,” Naugatuck coach Tom Deller said. “We’ve been talking since day one that we have to hit, and we didn’t hit today. They hit the ball well in spots and got a couple of runs, and honestly we folded it up early and didn’t show that much resilience.”
Skidmore, a senior right-hander, stymied the Greyhounds with a heavy mix of off-speed pitches. All five of his strikeouts came via his curveball or circle-changeup, which helped him work out of three jams.
“I don’t have a very fast fastball, so I like to change up pitches and confuse hitters,” Skidmore said. “My curve and circle change are my go-to pitches.”
Skidmore and Holy Cross (7-4) started and finished the game on rocky notes. Naugatuck (9-2) loaded the bases with one out in the first, but Skidmore fanned Spencer Dreher on a curveball and John Dean on a changeup to squeak out of trouble.
With a 2-0 lead in the seventh, Skidmore worked quickly to record a pair of strikeouts — on the trusty curve and change — to begin the inning. Evan Pellicia narrowly reached on an error to keep the game alive before Josh Aviles beat out an infield single and moved up to second on another error.
But Skidmore sealed his shutdown by inducing the final of his 14 groundouts when Kyle Plasky hit into a fielder’s choice.
“He got a ton of ground balls because we were swinging at bad pitches,” Deller said. “They were defensive swings, which is against everything we’ve been doing since day one.”
Skidmore cruised through the middle innings, allowing just two hits from the second through the sixth. Only one runner reached scoring position during that time, thanks to an error, but Skidmore stranded Jovanni Torres with three consecutive groundouts.
The Crusaders plated all the runs they needed in a two-run third, when James Thorpe’s RBI triple to right drove home Ethen Mester and Ben Brown’s two-out double to center scored Thorpe.
Skidmore knew those two runs were all he’d need.
“I knew with my defense behind me, we would shut them down,” Skidmore said. “It would have been nice to put up some more runs, but I have a lot of confidence in our defense this year.”
Naugatuck kept the game close by gunning down two Holy Cross runners at the plate. Torres nailed Chris Anderson at home to end the second, and Kevin Mariano threw out Mike Chiovitti to close the fifth.
Ricky Plasky went the distance in a hard-luck loss for the Greyhounds. He allowed nine hits with two strikeouts and no walks, but his effort went unrewarded.
“We’re going to turn this into a positive,” Deller said. “Sometimes winning masks the negatives. I’m not worried at all. We have a very good defense, and Ricky is spot-on every time. We just have to have something between the ears when we go up to the plate.”
Naugatuck’s next outing will be Thursday, when the Greyhounds meet Torrington at Dodd Stadium in Norwich. The ‘Hounds will visit Crosby on Monday before they host Seymour, which was undefeated as of press time, on May 7.