Lopes sends seniors out victorious in walk-off fashion

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The Greyhounds celebrate after Kyle Lopes’ walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth Monday afternoon gave Naugatuck a 2-1 win over Wilby. KEN MORSE
NAUGATUCK — Kyle Lopes gave the seniors on the Naugatuck High School baseball team something to celebrate Monday on senior day, when he laced a two-out, two-strike single into center field to bring home Mike Burns for the game’s winning run.

A wild celebration ensued at home plate as Naugatuck exacted a bit of revenge on Wilby earning a hard fought extra inning 2-1 win.
Wilby had defeated Naugatuck 5-4 in extra inning comeback fashion earlier in the season. So, it was only fitting that the Greyhounds rallied in the bottom of the eighth inning improving to 13-5 on the season as Wilby fell to 12-6.

For seniors Matt Zahornasky, Arber Mehmedi, Bryan Pihonak, Brian Dowling and Sean Dibble, who were honored following the game, the win sent them out as victors in their final home game.

Naugatuck senior baseball players Arber Mehmedi, Bryan Pihonak, Sean Dibble, Matt Zahornasky and Brian Dowling were honored Monday following the Greyhounds game versus Wilby. KEN MORSE

Lopes delivered the winning hit and Burns scored the winning run but it took an entire team effort for the Greyhounds to escape with the victory.

Zahornasky scattered just two hits with six strikeouts through seven innings on the hill but had a lot of company on the base paths. Wilby loaded the bases in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings on walks but the Naugatuck defense came up huge each time, making the necessary plays to thwart the rallies.

Adam Neveski earned the win in relief getting out of a jam in the eighth inning when third baseman Rich Pimental speared a line shot down the line and turned it into an inning ending double play.

“It’s been like that all season,” Naugatuck head coach Tom Deller said. “It has taken everyone in that dugout to accumulate the 13 wins. We only have 14 guys and they have all contributed at different times and today was a perfect example of a total team effort.”

Naugatuck made the plays in the field but no Greyhound stepped up more on the defensive end than centerfielder Nolan Kinne.
Wilby had runners at second and third in the top of the sixth inning, with the score knotted at 1-1, when Jason Cintron drove a shot to deep center.

Kinne chased the blast down in the gap sending a return throw to Mehmedi at the plate to hold the runners.

Kinne wasn’t through just yet. The next batter to step to the plate for Wilby, Andre Eason, sent a sinking line drive to center. Kinne once again showed his defensive prowess, making a diving grab and throwing to second for an inning ending double play.

“I have never seen an outfielder cover the ground that Nolan covers in this league,” Deller said. “Matt had his troubles but he kept us in the game and the defense backed him up with some tremendous plays.”

Naugatuck was having its troubles with Wilby’s Manny Cruz who rang up 15 strikeouts but he ran out of gas in the eighth inning.

Cintron scored in the top of the fifth after a walk and an error to put Wilby in front 1-0. Naugatuck came right back at it when Mehmedi drew a walk and took third on a two out double from Zac Mercer. Pimental tied the game on a hard single to right and the 1-1 deadlock entered the seventh inning.

Wilby got the lead runner on board with a walk and Cruz sent a blast to the fence in dead center. Kinne turned his back to the plate and hauled in the shot just in front of the fence to save a run.

In the bottom of the eighth Pimental was hit by a pitch with one out and Mike Burns came on to pinch run. Seth Mulhall worked out a walk and Karl Johansen beat out an infield hit up the third base side to load the bases with two outs.

That sent Lopes to the plate and his solid single to center decided the edge-of-your seat affair as the Naugatuck dugout charged out onto the field in celebration.