Greyhounds look to improve at the plate

Naugatuck shortstop Steven Marinaro fields the ball versus Wolcott Monday in Wolcott.  Wolcott won the game, 1-0, in eight innings. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Naugatuck shortstop Steven Marinaro fields the ball versus Wolcott Monday in Wolcott.
Wolcott won the game, 1-0, in eight innings. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — Hitting the baseball has been Naugatuck’s main focus under coach Tom Deller the past couple of seasons, and rightfully so.

It is no coincidence when a team bats .300 and finishes 15-5, like Naugatuck did in 2014. It is no coincidence when a team bats .270 and finishes 11-9, like Naugatuck did in 2015. And it is certainly no coincidence when a team has 13 hits through its first three games and a record of 1-2, like Naugatuck has done so far this season.

The Greyhounds scored just one run in those two losses.

“I like the fact that we are working hard,” Deller said.  “But we are going to continue to work on our hitting.”

The lack of offensive production was evident in Monday’s loss at Wolcott, where Naugatuck suffered a tough 1-0 defeat in eight innings. However, it was not so much a lack of hitting as it was lack of hitting in key situations. Pitchers Jovanni Torres and Steve Marinaro had a combined no-hitter for Naugy heading into the eighth inning.

“We had guys on second and third base multiple times we could not cash in,” Deller said. “We are not going to win games if we can’t hit the ball with runners in scoring position.”

In Naugy’s two losses, only three players have recorded a hit: Torres (4), senior Devan Aviles (4), and junior Corey Plasky (2).  However, there is some younger talent on this team that could make contributions to this Naugy squad that lost ten players last season due to graduation.

“We have four freshman on our varsity roster,” Deller said. “We have Derek Sampaio, Zack Royka, Mark Nofri and Mike Patton.”

“It’s just a numbers thing,” Deller continued. “We lost a large number of players from last year’s team so we needed to fill in those spots so we gave a few freshmen the opportunity.”

Some of the freshmen have already earned significant playing time. Sampaio went two innings on the mound in an 8-1 loss against Watertown April 9. Royka got two plate appearances in the Greyhounds’ season-opening 7-2 win over Ansonia April 6, and went 1-1.

The young players will have a role on this squad but the play by some of the returning varsity players cannot be overlooked.

Naugatuck's Jovanni Torres delivers a pitch versus the Eagles Monday in Wolcott. Wolcott won the game, 1-0, in eight innings. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Naugatuck’s Jovanni Torres delivers a pitch versus the Eagles Monday in Wolcott. Wolcott won the game, 1-0, in eight innings. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Torres is off to a hot start at the plate, as well as on the mound. After being put behind the plate for almost his entire sophomore season, Torres finally got his opportunity to pitch this year and has proven to be the Greyhounds’ number one. In two starts, Torres has pitched nine innings, giving up just one run off of three hits with nine strikeouts.

Torres may be the headliner for the Naugy pitching staff but Deller feels that he has a very deep staff, which includes Plasky, Sampaio, junior Steve Marinaro, junior Shane Swierbitowicz and sophomore Joe Kwaak.

“We don’t just have one or two go-to guys,” Deller said. “We are going to need a lot of guys to contribute.”

Naugatuck’s bats came alive Wednesday as the Greyhounds improved to 2-2 with a 20-0 win over Crosby.

Swierbitowicz, who pitched four innings of one-hit ball with five strikeouts, had two hits, four RBI and three runs scored. Mike Plasky added two RBI and three runs scored.

The Greyhounds will host Oxford on Friday before traveling to Woodland on Saturday and Holy Cross on Monday.