NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck head baseball coach Tom Deller couldn’t hide the wonder in his voice as he looked out on to the new baseball field at Naugatuck High School earlier this week.
“Everything needs to be addressed,” Deller said.
Naugatuck lost its fair share of players to graduation last season.
“We lost a lot,” Deller said. “Almost all of our pitching graduated. Spencer Dreher is our only returning pitcher. We have an awful lot of work to do in a very short period of time with the season starting on Wednesday.”
The Greyhounds got the most out of their opportunities last season after putting together a 9-11 mark the year before. Naugatuck went 15-5 last year in the regular season and reached the quarterfinals of the Class LL tournament for the first time since 2000.
But graduation took its toll. Naugatuck lost three solid pitchers in Adam Tavares, Rick Plasky and John Dean. The batting lineup suffered just as much losing Kyle Plasky, Kevin Mariano and Matt Giglio.
To make matters worse one of the key players that the ‘Hounds were counting on, Josh Aviles, is lost for the season with an injury.
Naugatuck does return two solid players in senior pitcher Spencer Dreher and senior shortstop Jason Bradley. But the ‘Hounds will need other stars to emerge.
“We had an opportunity last year to do well and we fell a little short,” Deller said. “Now we come into this year with an awful lot of spots to fill. We may be a double L school but our numbers are down. We have a lot of seniors back, and there are opportunities, but they need to show they are ready to take those positions.”
Those who step up will fill the lineup, Deller said.
“The bottom line is the best players will be the ones in the lineup,” he said. “We do have some seniors like Matt Whitney and Evan Pellicia who can pitch but we are going to need guys step up to stay competitive.”
Bradley, a three-sport athlete, has the most experience and will be the anchor in the infield. Jovanni Torres showed his skills last year as a freshman and will be relied on to take on more of a role this season in the infield and behind the plate.
“We have a good competition going on for second base,” Bradley said. “Pellicia will find his way to third base in most games, he can flash the leather pretty well. We got the big guy Spence at first base when he’s not pitching and Colin O’Leary can play first as well.”
Getting off to a good start early will be key, Bradley said.
“We have some new pieces to the puzzle and they all look like they are ready to play,” Bradley said. “It’s going to be a rough start with the way the weather has been and the condition of the fields so the first week or so is going to be crucial.”
Dreher has put together two solid seasons on the hill and will be the ace of the staff. He can also bring a consistent bat to the lineup. His senior leadership, along with Bradley, will go a long way to helping the team develop during the season.
“Coach Deller told us that only 20 percent of innings pitched last year is back this season so there are going to be opportunities for our underclassman to step up,” Dreher said. “We lost a lot of our big bats in the lineup so we will need to play a little small ball this year and try and manufacturer runs. We have our work cut out for us.”
The Greyhounds are scheduled to open the season April 8 at Watertown. Naugy will host Woodland on April 9 and Ansonia on April 10.