NEWTOWN — Naugatuck’s pitching has been the strength of its baseball team all season. So it was again in the Class LL state tournament.
Unfortunately for the Greyhounds, their bats couldn’t keep up with their arms.
Despite a pair of outstanding pitching efforts in the first two rounds of the state tournament, the No. 15-seeded Greyhounds fell short of a quarterfinal berth with a 2-1 loss to No. 2 Newtown in eight innings last Thursday.
Naugy (14-9) took a 1-0 lead on Jonathon Chatfield’s first-inning single, but a bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning tied it up. The Nighthawks made a pair of diving grabs to steal hits in the top of the eighth before Luke Melillo’s walk-off single in the bottom half.
“We took the No. 2 team in Class LL — that has scored nine runs a game many times — to extra innings,” Naugatuck coach Tom Deller said. “Unfortunately, we just couldn’t manufacture a second run and came up short.”
The ‘Hounds had advanced to the second round with a 2-0 win over No. 18 Brien McMahon in the first round. Nate Deptula tossed a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts, while Derrick Jagello homered and Tristan Crelan added a double and an RBI.
Although Naugatuck lost nine games this season, all nine of them came to teams that made the quarterfinals of state tournaments — St. Paul (three times), Wolcott (twice), Woodland, Holy Cross, Newtown and Fairfield Ludlowe.
“This year, the kids had a tremendous amount of pressure and expectation to succeed, and I’m sure if you asked them, we probably fell short of that,” Deller said. “But the fact remains we were the fifth-best team in the NVL, (and) the top four teams all have a legitimate shot at winning a state title.”
Deptula was one of the Naugatuck Valley League’s best pitchers all season and tossed a no-hitter late in the regular season against Ansonia. He’s one of eight seniors the Greyhounds will lose, including Crelan, Derek Sampaio, Mark Nofri, Mike Natkiel, Zack Royka, Nick Bruno and Mike Patton.
“Our pitching was outstanding and will be our strong suit again next year,” Deller said. “But as we’ve said many, many times, we can’t expect them to throw zeros up every time.”