Early-season trials on the diamond


The trials and tribulations of early-season high school baseball are real.

“It’s early, it’s been cold, and we haven’t had a chance to get any rhythm as far as practice goes,” Naugatuck coach Tom Deller said.

Despite the weather, the Greyhounds started their season with consecutive victories, including an impressive victory over perennial Naugatuck Valley League title contender St. Paul, before a late loss to Sacred Heart on Monday.

“I’m never satisfied,” Deller said. “We beat St. Paul, which is a nice win, and we lost to Sacred Heart, which was a bad loss.”

The 3-1 victory against St. Paul on Saturday came on the back of a strong pitching performance by Zach Royka, who threw 93 pitches and worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh to preserve the win. Royka allowed six hits and an unearned run with three strikeouts.

“Zach Royka is going to do just fine for us,” Deller said. “He was extended a little further than we would have liked, but he pitched well. We had a force at home to cut down a guy at the plate and a nice play on a line drive (to end the game).”

Nick Bruno and Mike Patton propelled the offense with RBI singles, and Derrick Jagello had a double and a run.

“We’ve talked about winning those kinds of games,” Deller said. “It’s nice to be in those positions early. We responded well.”

The win over St. Paul followed a season-opening, 15-2 victory over Kennedy last Thursday. Jagello had three hits and three RBI. Mike Nattiel and Zack Royka each had two-run singles against the Eagles.

The 6-2 defeat against the Hearts on Monday was a tough one for the Greyhounds to swallow after they took a lead into the fifth inning. Sacred Heart’s Justin Stephens hit a go-ahead grand slam in the fifth to sink Naugy. Royka and Tommy Ayash each had a hit and a run for the ‘Hounds.

“Then again, we went to Fulton (Park), played Sacred Heart, gave up a grand slam, and we folded up like a cheap suit 48 hours (after the St. Paul victory),” Deller said.

That leads the longtime Naugatuck coach to the biggest improvement he wants to see over the next few weeks.

“We need to develop some confidence and consistency,” Deller said. “We need to have an approach at the plate. We’re striking out a lot. We’re overmatched a lot. You can go to the batting cage all winter long and you’re the best hitter in the world, but in a game when kids are throwing to get you out, it’s a different story. We were overmatched by the kid from Sacred Heart, who was throwing pretty much straight fastballs. I would like to see some more consistency and some thought when we step into the box. We can’t be selfish at the plate.”

The Greyhounds fell to Wolcott, 7-1, on Wednesday to drop to 2-2 on the season. Mark Nofri drove in the Greyhounds’ run. Royka and Ayash had two hits each for Naugatuck.

Naugatuck will visit Torrington on Friday and Ansonia on Monday before returning home next Wednesday morning against Holy Cross.

Hawks split a pair: Woodland is off to a 2-2 start to the season with both losses coming to perennial NVL contenders. The Hawks opened with a loss to Wolcott on March 31 and fell to St. Paul on Monday, but they mixed in a victory over Ansonia on Saturday to get in the win column.

Woodland topped the Chargers, 13-7, thanks to a multidimensional hitting attack. Jason Claiborn (single, double, two RBI, three runs), Zack Graveline (two hits, RBI, three runs), and Matt Szturma (two hits, RBI, run) paced the offense while Zach Bedryczuk struck out six in five innings of work.

The Hawks suffered a 6-1 loss to the Falcons on Monday.

Woodland bounced back to even its record with a 6-2 win over Watertown on Wednesday. Stzurma allowed six hits with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings for the win. Bedryczuk had a two-run double, Colby Linnel had two hits and two RBI for the Hawks and Justin Butterworth chipped in with two hits.

Woodland will visit Goodwin Tech on Thursday before returning home Saturday at noon against Sacred Heart. They’ll also visit Torrington on Monday before hosting Oxford next Wednesday.