WATERBURY — The start of Monday’s first night game of the season began with a celebration, as the Naugatuck players presented head coach Tom Deller with a plaque in honor of the coach’s 200th career victory in his 14 years at the helm.
It ended in disappointing fashion as Sacred Heart staged a wild finish, scoring five runs with two outs in the top of the seventh to pull out a 16-11 seat-grabber over the Hounds.
The Hearts pushed a run across in the top of the first inning, aided by a leadoff walk and an error. Brandon Halbert managed to retire the side after Sacred Heart took a 1-0 advantage.
That’s when the wheels came off the wagon for both teams, as the bottom of the first and the top of the second took an hour and fifteen minutes to play. The Hounds used three walks, a hit batter and two errors to open the door with Arber Mehmedi, Zack Dreher, Rich Pimental and Nolan Kinne banging out singles as Naugatuck plated six runs.
Not to be outdone, the Hearts responded with a tear of its own. They responded with 10 hits, including four doubles that kept clearing the bases. Mike Kennedy came on in relief of Halbert on the hill, and finally put an end to the uprising.
But not before Sacred Heart had taken over the lead and the momentum, bolting out to an 11-6 advantage. Both teams went to the bullpen again, and the game on track toward a more reasonable outcome.
Adam Neveski took the mound for Naugatuck and literally shut down the Hearts’ free-swinging attack. Over the next four innings, Neveski surrendered just two hits while striking out four, giving the Hounds a chance to get back in the game.
It wasn’t easy, as the Hearts Evan Devico was just as effective, allowing just two runs over the next four innings. But Naugatuck showed its true character, chipping away and refusing to pack it in. The Hounds almost stole a victory as they went on to steal 11 bases in the game.
Zack Mercer and Pimental singled in the bottom of the sixth, and Matt D’Agnone was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Erich Broadrick smashed a two-run single down the left field line and the Hounds were back in the game. Dreher drew a bases loaded walk that tied the game at 11-11.
But Naugatuck kept running out of chances. They stranded runners at second and third in the third and fifth innings. A runner was left on third to end the fourth and it all came undone as they left the bases loaded in both the sixth and seventh innings.
Sacred Heart finally solved a worn-out Neveski as they loaded the bases on walks with two outs in the seventh. That opened the door to disaster, as the Hearts opened the flood gates pouring on five runs to pull away for the win.