Naugatuck’s ‘Big Z’ towers on the mound

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Matt Zahornasky of Naugatuck has made his mark on the mound during an accolade-filled athletic career. Zahornasky plans to pitch at Manchester Community College in the fall. FILE PHOTO
NAUGATUCK — Being the tallest kid on the baseball team is something that Matt Zahornasky has gotten used to from the very first time he put on the uniform.

“Obviously, being the tallest kid on the team put me in line to be the pitcher,” Matt said.

The strapping right hander has been mowing batters down ever since and his presence on the mound can be intimidating.

Aside from his size, Matt’s intimidation factor was growing up.

His father Tom Zahornasky coached the Yankees in the Peter J. Foley Little League when Matt and his teammates won the league championship as 9- and 11-year-olds. The next year the team came in second.

“My Dad was a tremendous influence, and I played for several AAU teams that he coached,” Matt said. “I began playing AAU ball for the Naugatuck Valley Navigators when I was 10 years old. We won 13 tournament championships and I gained a lot of experience pitching. I also started to make consistent contact at the plate.”

Matt’s older brother T.J. was four years ahead of him, and his older sisters Becky and Mandy gave their younger brother all he could handle in backyard games of baseball and basketball.

“I have always looked up to my older brother and sisters,” Matt said.

When Matt was 13 he was named to the Northeast America Team, as the player of the year winning the triple crown.

Matt may have been the tallest kid on most teams but often times he was one of the youngest players as well.

Despite is age, he didn’t display the herky-jerky motion that some youngsters possess as they learn the craft of pitching. Matt had a long, lanky delivery with nothing hurried expect the pitch exploding through the strike zone.
Matt came into his own during his junior year at Naugatuck High School, posting a tidy 6-1 mark and leading the NVL with a 1.66 ERA. Statistics that earned him All-League status.

As a senior, Matt helped to lead the Greyhounds to a 13-7 record and earned All-Conference honors, sporting a 4-3 record on the mound.

“There is no question about it,” Naugatuck head baseball coach Tom Deller said. “Matt has tremendous potential. The ability is there.”

Deller said all Matt needs to do is maximize that potential.

“Now he needs to step up and take advantage of this opportunity,” Deller said. “He needs to continue to work hard to get better at the next level.”

Although Matt has made a name for himself on the mound, he’s comfortable with the bat as well.

“He has also improved himself as a hitter. He had quite a few multiple hit games in his senior year and a few home runs,” Deller said.

Matt will play for the Manchester Community College Cougars in the fall. The Cougars won the Region 21 title for the fourth year in a row and played in the NJCAA Division 3 World Series last year.

As Matt prepares for collegiate baseball, he does so with an eye on improving and seizing the opportunity.

“I need to work on my control and increasing my velocity,” Matt said. “I’m certainly looking forward to this opportunity to play baseball at the collegiate level.”

What the future holds for Matt is a pitch that’s yet to be delivered. He said he wants to focus on a career in sports management and plans to transfer after he earns is Associate Degree.

Come the fall, Matt may not be the tallest player on the team anymore, but the Big Z will certainly make an impact as the Cougars look to go after another Region 21 title.