NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck’s Arber Mehmedi had been a two-year starting catcher and was initially penciled in for a third season behind the plate.
But Naugatuck coach Tom Deller, in his 15th season at the helm, felt a need to get another catcher, Zac Mercer, into the batting lineup.
“With Zac’s emergence as one of our top hitters, it was necessary to find an everyday spot for him on the field,” noted Deller. “His best position was behind the plate. Since we were in need of help up the middle, we put Arber in those positions to make the room for Zac.”
Mehmedi has been splitting time between second base and shortstop and is hitting .412 (seven hits, 17 at-bats, seven RBI and 10 runs scored).
“Arber was our best option to make the position switch,” said Deller. “He has great instincts. If I put him at first base or the outfield, I know he would do well. He even said to me the other day I’d be surprised how well he could do if I put him on the mound. He just likes to play the game and enjoys the challenge a lot.
“While we still have a lot of work to do I think that for the most part the kids are buying into the fact that they have to work hard to compete at our level, that it’s not going to just be handed to them and Arber is a leader in that respect,” Deller added. “When the other kids see your senior leader working to get better it kind of reinforces the need that they should be working hard as well.”
Mehmedi and Mercer have helped the Greyhounds to a 4-2 start after a 27-3 beatdown of Crosby on Saturday and a 9-5 victory over Sacred Heart on Monday.
In the win over Crosby, Nolan Kinne had five hits and scored six runs while Mercer contributed three doubles and three runs. Kyle Lopes also had three hits and three runs while Seth Mulhall added three hits and two runs.
The ‘Hounds scored 15 runs in the top of the fourth to take a 24-0 lead after scoring four each in the second and third innings. Brian Dowling pitched three innings for the win while Mike Burns hurled the final four frames.
On Monday, Naugy broke a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the sixth with a four-run inning to pull away with a 9-5 win over Sacred Heart. Mulhall knocked a single and a double with two RBI while Mercer doubled and scored twice for the Greyhounds, who only managed five hits in the game.
Adam Neveski earned the win by pitching the final five innings in relief of Rich Pimental. Neveski didn’t allow a run in his effort.
Naugatuck was set to face Wilby on Wednesday before hosting Holy Cross Thursday. The ‘Hounds will visit Woodland on Monday.
Kyle Brennan contributed to this report.