NAUGATUCK — After a respectable 14-8 season in 2011, this year’s Naugatuck baseball squad is thinking about long-term goals.
Last year ended with opening-round losses in the Naugatuck Valley League and Class LL tournaments. This year, the ‘Hounds have the depth, experience and skill to return a storied program to postseason success.
“This is Naugatuck and Naugatuck has a tradition,” coach Tom Deller said. “We need to right the ship and I think these guys are up for it.”
Naugatuck returns 11 seniors, the most on a team in Deller’s 16-year career. Many can play multiple positions.
However, the focus in the preseason has been hitting. Deller said recent seasons have ended early due to the team’s lack of offense.
“We’ve focused on scoring runs,” Deller said. “We’ve been working a lot on hitting.”
Deller said the team is using video and hitting a lot off tees to improve mechanics.
Seniors Richie Pimental, Zack Mercer, and Seth Mulhall are ready to be the heart of the lineup. Last year, Pimental hit .450, while Mercer and Mulhall batted in the .370s.
“Those guys really are the core of our order,” Deller said.
Another key to the lineup will be senior Nolan Kinne, the team’s center fielder. Kinne played in every inning of every game last season.
Joining Kinne in the outfield will be senior Jon Bisson, who will see time in left field with senior Karl Johansen. Deller has been especially pleased with Bisson’s approach.
“Jon has been working the hardest of anyone to prepare for the start of the season,” Deller said.
Ryan White and Mulhall will be the team’s primary right fielders, Deller said.
Mulhall will also see time at first base with seniors Adam Neveski and Charlie Healy. Seniors Mike Burns, Kyle Lopes and junior Scott Sill will share time at second base.
At short, sophomore John Dean, Lopes and junior Matt Bradley will compete for playing time. Pimental, Lopes and sophomore Adam Tavares will see time at third.
Mercer, Johansen and Dean will be the team’s catchers.
Deller said he’s not prepared to announce a batting order, but wants the team to be ready to play no matter where they are in the lineup or in the field.
“I told the guys to be ready to play a position you haven’t played before,” Deller said.
The pitching staff seems a little clearer. Neveski, Pimental, and Tavares appear to be Naugy’s starting rotation. Deller said White, Healy, Burns, and Mulhall will all “be in the mix” when pitching needs arise.
“Those guys can help out at any given moment,” Deller said.
Naugy begins the season on April 4 at Wolcott and host Holy Cross the next day. On April 7, the Greyhounds host Manchester.
“It won’t take us long to find out how good we are,” Deller said.
Deller said the NVL is “winnable,” but admitted there are no easy wins on the schedule.
“When you look at the NVL, you can’t look down the list and pencil in wins,” Deller said. “We don’t have that luxury.”
The overall goal is to continue to improve during the season.
“We need to get better every day and be playing our best baseball in about six weeks,” Deller said.