NAUGATUCK — The last time the Naugatuck baseball team played in a meaningful game Mark Nagrabski toed the rubber for the 1999 Greyhounds in the Class LL semifinals going up against a Southington pitcher by the name of Carl Pavano.
Twelve seasons have passed and the Greyhounds are still looking for a meaningful game to play. Naugatuck has advanced to the second round of the Class LL tournament five times in a dozen years but has gone no further.
Naugatuck head coach Tom Deller has put that on the plate of this year’s group of Greyhounds as a measuring stick for a successful season.
“It’s been a long time since we have played a meaningful game around here,” said Deller, following Monday’s win over Sacred Heart. “We have 11 seniors on this team, and we have a chance to do something very special.
“We have won (Naugatuck Valley League) titles in the past but I’m talking about playing a meaningful game in June.”
Naugatuck started the season out slowly getting upended by a pair of 3-1 teams, Wolcott by a 10-4 margin and an all out battle with Holy Cross that ended in a 10-8 loss.
On Saturday the Greyhounds put their best foot forward and came away with an 8-3 win over Manchester. Adam Tavares went four innings with five strikeouts and Chuck Healy went two innings with two strikeouts. Ryan White earned the save.
Nolan Kinne charged the offense with three hits and three runs scored. Zac Mercer belted a two-run triple and Rich Pimental added an RBI double.
On Monday at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury the Greyhounds evened their record at 2-2 with a convincing 11-2 win over Sacred Heart.
It was a step towards a meaningful game as the Greyhounds displayed a total-team effort. Adam Neveski threw a seven-hitter and struck out nine before Tavares came on in the seventh to strike out two batters and secure the win.
“I just came out here looking to throw strikes and stay ahead of the hitters,” Neveski said.
Any doubt whether Naugatuck could win its second game in a row was quickly erased when the ‘Hounds erupted for five runs in the first inning.
Kinne reached on an error and Kyle Lopes drew a walk. Mercer, who reached base all five times up with four walks and a single, earned his first walk to load the bases with no outs.
Pimental grounded out to chase home a run before Seth Mulhall notched an RBI single to left. Neveski unclogged the bases with a two-run triple into the right field corner.
“When I got my turn at the plate I wanted to get a good pitch to drive. It’s easier pitching with a lead. But we have more meaningful games to play,” Neveski said. “Not to say this one wasn’t important but we have a lot of seniors on this team and we want to be playing in June.”
Jon Bisson ripped a double in the gap to make it a 5-0 advantage after one.
Pimental added a two-run double in the fourth and Sacred Heart reached Neveski for a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning to make it a 7-2 game.
Naugatuck showed no signs of slowing down though. Scott Sill got it started in the fifth with a lead off single. A walk to Kinne and an error put Lopes on base before Mercer and Pimental belted RBI singles.
Bisson led off the top of the sixth inning crushing a triple with Naugatuck well out in front by a 10-2 margin. Karl Johansen knocked in Bisson with a single to left, and Naugatuck took an 11-2 advantage into the bottom of the sixth.
The Hearts tried to mount a rally but a nifty catcher-to-first-to-catcher double play between Mercer and Healy took Sacred Heart out of a scoring situation.
Naugatuck hosts Kennedy on Wednesday and will host Wilby on Friday. Naugatuck travels to Waterbury Monday to take on Crosby.