Greyhounds come up short in clash of pitchers

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Naugatuck pitcher Alexa Marucci went pitch for pitch with Sydney Matzko of Torrington Monday. The Greyhounds came up short in the end, as the Red Raiders prevailed 4-3. PHOTO BY LARAINE WESCHLER
NAUGATUCK — The Greyhounds and the Red Raiders were locked up in a pitchers’ duel on Monday in the borough.

Sydney Matzko of Torrington had surrendered three hits through five innings and the Greyhounds’ Alexa Marucci was working on a two-hitter with Naugy leading, 2-0.

In the top of the sixth inning, the Torrington bats finally found a few holes in the Naugatuck defense, and three hits and a walk later the Raiders had the lead, which they kept for a 4-3 win.

Talia Zabbara and Chelsea Matzko sliced singles under the gloves of diving infielders to lead off the sixth. A one-out walk loaded the bases and suddenly this pitching duel was about to come unraveled.

Sam Pelow managed to send a shot into the right-field gap for a bases-clearing triple to give Torrington (9-3) its first lead at 3-2.

The Raiders were taking nothing for granted as Mollie Bartles dropped a suicide squeeze to bring home the fourth run for Torrington.

Naugatuck’s Melissa LaBonte, 17, awaits a chance to come home as rain falls Monday versus Torrington. LaBonte slammed a triple in the first inning and scored one of the ‘Hounds 3 runs on the day. PHOTO BY LARAINE WESCHLER

Though Torrington sprung a four-run sixth to take the lead that it never relinquished, Naugatuck head coach Kevin Wesche was pleased with his defense, especially around the horn.

“I thought our infield defense did a good job especially playing a freshman at third in Gillian, a sophomore Sarah Chandler at short and a freshman Erica Bohuski at second base,” Wesche said. “They were making all the plays that came their way. But Torrington managed to get a few hits by us and then that big one that cleared the bases.”

The squeeze proved to be the difference as Naugatuck (5-5) came back with a run in the bottom of the frame. Matzko wanted no part of Naugatuck slugger Gillian Fortier, who blasted a two-run homer in the first inning, and promptly walked the lead-off batter in the Greyhounds sixth.

Joelle Louth hit a sacrifice bunt to move along the runner but Fortier put her head down and didn’t stop running until she wound up on third base. Lianne Wallace pounded a two-out, two-strike pitch through the hole at shortstop into left field to make it 4-3.

The ‘Hounds had the tying runner on base but Matzko reared back and delivered one of her 17 strikeouts to beat back the Greyhounds as Torrington escaped with a 4-3 win.

“Their pitcher is tough,” Wesche said. “She’s only a freshman and she was mixing it up and hitting her spots. Torrington is a young team but they have a lot of skill and they are a force to be reckoned with.”

For most of the game, it looked like the difference had come in the first inning when Melissa LaBonte crushed a triple and Fortier made it count by slamming her seventh home run of the season to put Naugatuck on top by a 2-0 count.

“Gillian certainly showed in that first inning that one swing of the bat can change a ball game,” Wesche said. “I thought Torrington was smart to stay away from her late in the game and they walked her.”

Naugatuck was set to travel to St. Paul on Wednesday and Crosby on Thursday before hosting Sacred Heart and Ansonia on Monday and Wednesday. Wesche said that the ‘Hounds have to come ready to play every game.

“We have to continue to mature as a team as the season goes on,” Wesche said. “We are not a dominating team at 5-5. So, we can take no one for granted.”