OXFORD — Like Naugatuck American Legion Post 17’s game against Oxford two weeks ago, Sunday afternoon’s contest at Oxford High was a low-scoring battle with some timely hitting, strong pitching, and defensive miscues.
Unfortunately for Naugy, it didn’t secure a second straight win against Oxford as Post 174 pitcher Ray Kreiger allowed just four hits to lead his team to a 4-1 win.
Oxford took a lead in the bottom of the first and never looked back. Mike Ippolito hit a one-out single, stole second and third, and scored on Alex Miller’s sacrifice fly for the first run of the day. Kreiger also walked in the inning, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and was knocked in by Colin Haydu’s single to make it 2-0.
Naugatuck pitcher Matt Zahornasky settled in after the shaky first inning, allowing no more earned runs and just three more hits the rest of the afternoon.
But Naugatuck’s offense struggled against Kreiger, who was one of the strongest pitchers in the Naugatuck Valley League as a junior for Derby. He struck out six and had a no-hitter through 4 1/3 innings before it was broken up by Ryan White’s infield single.
White was just the third baserunner of the day for Naugy after two earlier walks, but he was erased on an inning-ending double play to end any rally Post 17 tried to mount.
Oxford took advantage of Naugatuck’s missed opportunity and added two insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. Chad Sweeney led off with a single to center and later scored when Cathain Pratt reached on an error to shortstop. Pratt scored two batters later when Kreiger reached on another error to second to make it 4-0.
Post 17 had another potential rally in the top of the sixth after Zach Hertel reached on an infield single to lead off the inning. Arber Mehmedi was later intentionally walked with two outs to put runners on first and second, but Hertel was caught stealing third to end the threat.
Naugy finally broke through in the seventh to score its lone run of the game. Brandon Halbert led off with a single to right and moved to second on an error. After stealing third, he scored on a single to right by Anthony McKernan. But the rally quickly ended as a double play and a groundout sealed the game.
Zahornasky took the loss after allowing two earned runs on five hits and a walk while striking out seven. Kreiger allowed one earned on four hits and three walks while fanning six.
Naugatuck was set to hit the road for the next six games, including a pair of doubleheaders. Post 17 plays Oakville at Taft High on Thursday before meeting New Milford on Saturday for a doubleheader at Volunteer Field. On Sunday, Naugy heads to Municipal Stadium to take on Waterbury before a Tuesday night double-dip at Bethel High.