NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck baseball team saw its six-year streak of successful appearances in the Naugatuck Valley League and state tournaments come to an end last season.
After finishing the regular season 8-12, the Greyhounds missed out on the NVL tournament and squeaked into the Class LL state tournament as the 32nd seed, but dropped a qualifying-round game to Norwalk.
Offensive troubles were a stumbling block last year.
“We have the pitching to be successful,” Naugatuck head coach Tom Deller said. “Nate (Deptula) and Derrick (Jagello) had real good success on the mound for us last year and for the Legion team over the summer, but we have to score some runs. We had the opportunity late in the season to qualify for the NVL tournament and we just didn’t score enough runs. Defense and pitching has always been strong, but we just don’t score a lot of runs.”
The Greyhounds return a solid core of eight seniors — outfielders Derek Sampaio, Mike Patton and Nick Bruno, infielders Tristan Crelan, Mark Nofri and Mike Natkiel, and pitchers Zack Royka and Deptula — who will look to but the spark back in the offense and get the team back in the NVL tourney.
“Saying that we have a lot of experienced seniors coming back is one thing,” Deller said. “Going out on the field and executing is another. They are all great kids and are working hard to turn this around.
“It all comes down to confidence, so hopefully we get on a little roll early in the season. It’s tough to come back once you lose a couple games in row. Then you start pressing and that’s when mistakes happen.”
Pitching will once again be a strong suit for Naugatuck. Aside from Deptula and Jagello, who is also solid at shortstop, junior Ryan McCarthy and sophomore Jonathon Chatfield can take the mound for Naugatuck.
“We have some baseball players on this team,” Deller said. “But they have to come out and work hard and do the things they need to do to be successful.”
“The NVL has a lot of baseball players, and there are not very many teams that lost a whole lot of players,” Deller added. “The league will be even stronger than it was last year, so we have our work cut out for us.”
Naugy is scheduled to open the season on Saturday at Cromwell. Next week, the Greyhounds will hit the road to take on Wilby and Fairfield Ludlowe before their home-opener next Friday vs. Holy Cross, last year’s Class S semifinalist.