Hounds break Hearts in extras, extend win streak to four

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Naugatuck’s Zac Mercer trots into third after cranking a two-run triple versus Sacred Heart Monday. The Greyhounds defeated the Hawks 9-7 in extra innings to win their fourth in a row. PHOTO BY KEN MORSE
WATERBURY — Naugatuck proved the old baseball adage that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. On Monday at Municipal Stadium, the Greyhounds managed to escape with an extra-inning, 9-7 win over Sacred Heart.

To the ‘Hounds’ credit, they did win their fourth straight and have won seven of their last eight to improve their ledger to 11-4 on the season. What was a little alarming was the way that they did it.

Sacred Heart managed 12 hits in the game and four came with two outs. Naugatuck committed five errors and four were made with two outs. The Hearts crossed the dish seven times but five runs were plated with two outs.

“There is just no sense of urgency,” Naugatuck head coach Tom Deller said. “We as a team lack the killer instinct. When we have a team down we don’t know how to put them away. How can we beat the only undefeated team in the league and then barely get out of this one with a ‘W’? If we bring that kind of attitude into the tournament it will most likely be a one-and-done scenario.”

Matt Zahornasky went the distance on the hill and settled down, allowing just two hits over the middle four innings. But five hits and three errors in the seventh and eighth innings had the ‘Hounds walking on egg shells.

Naugatuck’s Brian Pihonak dives and tags out a Crosby runner May 5. The Greyhounds topped the Bulldogs 12-4. PHOTO BY LARIANE WESCHLER

Trailing, 4-2, in the bottom of the seventh, Sacred Heart gave itself life with a one-out infield single. Then, Evan DeVico ripped a run-scoring double to make it a 4-3 game before Dwayne Ellis drew an intentional walk.

Defensive miscues took over for Naugy as a fly ball to the outfield was dropped in the sun and a routine groundout plated the tying run to send the game to extra innings.

Naugatuck exploded in the top of the eighth with five-run rally. With runners on first and third and one out, Nolan Kinne split the gap in left with a two-run double. Then, Arber Mehmedi crushed a run-scoring double down the line in right before Rich Pimental drilled a two-run double down the other line to give Naugatuck a commanding, 9-4 lead.

Zahornasky got the first two outs in the bottom of the eighth before Naugatuck came within inches of giving it right back to the Hearts.

A walk and an infield throwing error on the potential third out of the inning were followed by back-to-back singles and suddenly it was a 9-6 game. A comebacker to the mound was thrown away as another run crossed the plate to make it 9-7.

With runners on second and third, Zahornasky reared back for his eighth strikeout of the game and for the fifth time he ended an inning with a strikeout to preserve the victory.

DeVico retired the first seven Greyhounds he faced until Adam Neveski pounded a single to right field in the third. Later, Mehmedi knocked an RBI single up the middle to tie the game before Zac Mercer blasted a two-strike, two-out, two-run triple into the right-field corner, making it 3-1.

The Hearts came right back in the bottom of the third to score a run when Tony Ortiz’ sac fly plated DeVico to make it 3-2.

Both pitchers buckled down and the 3-2 nail-biter entered the sixth inning. Naugatuck plated an insurance run when Seth Mulhall drew a walk and Kyle Lopes and Neveski singled to load the bases. Pinch hitter Sean Dibble drew a walk to score Mulhall and extend the lead to 4-2.

Sacred Heart tried to make some noise in the sixth when Zahornasky surrendered a leadoff double and a single to turn up the heat. Pihonak made a stellar play on a line drive in the hole before Zahornasky picked off a runner at first to retire the side.

After finishing out the week with Ansonia and Seymour on the road, Naugatuck will be home on Monday for a senior night celebration as the ‘Hounds host Wilby at 6 p.m before finishing the regular season at Holy Cross on Tuesday and Kennedy on Thursday.