BY KEN MORSE
The first victory for a new head coach brings along with it the butterflies in the stomach, no matter what. But when you take over for an esteemed program like the Naugatuck baseball team with its rich history of success, the butterflies feel more like a couple of pterodactyls beating in your chest.
New coach Joe Iannotti was trying to push away the anxiety of being just the fourth coach to run the program in the past 68 years and was feeling pretty confident with his team ahead by four runs entering the top of the seventh inning of the season opener against Wolcott at the Ray Legenza Baseball Field.
The Greyhounds, not looking to prolong the agony any longer, wanted to get the first win out of the way in the opener. The Eagles couldn’t have cared less about all the nostalgic sentiments as they sent a couple of baseballs out of the yard to tie the game, 4-4 and send it to extra innings.
Chase Belisle banged a three-run homer to wobble the knees in the Naugy dugout and one pitch later A.J. Martinez tied the game with a solo blast for the Eagles. That brought on Andrew Tyszka to relieve Brady Evon, who had a shutout going heading into the seventh inning.
Tyszka kicked the door shut going an inning and two-thirds, and in the bottom of the eighth inning Mike Rusin wasted no time and sent a walk-off blast out of the yard for the 5-4 win The Greyhounds poured out of the Naugy dugout, just waiting to give Rusin a well deserved back-pounding.
Iannotti breathed a sigh of relief and secretly had to be wondering how did the three coaches before him survive this kind of drama.
“Certainly an exciting way to get things started,” said Iannotti. “Brady was throwing the ball real well and we were taking advantage of our opportunities. But winning in the NVL is tough. There are a lot of very good teams out there and it’s going to be a battle every game.”
Evon had it going on, setting down the Eagles with regularity. Dylan Sepulveda banged a two-run double to account for the early damage. Blake Stone had an RBI double and Mike Deitelbaum added a run-scoring single.
“Andrew (Tyszka) came and held it down for us. Mike (Rusin) can really get a hold of it,” said Iannotti. “It was a great way to start the season because Wolcott is a great program and they are always tough. There will be no easy wins in the NVL.”
On April 4, the Greyhounds took on St. Paul and came up on the short end of a 12-0 final. Anthony Abate tried to give Naugy a spark belting out two hits but the Falcons can put their bat on the ball as well. Joe Tonnotti belted a home run and threw four innings, surrendering just three hits while striking out nine. Mario Izzo hit a pair of home runs to pace the Falcons.
“St. Paul is legitimate. They just hit the ball. Last year they hit all those home runs and they have all those bats back this year. Opening the season with Wolcott and St. Paul is a good test to see where we are as a team.”
“They had a transfer student (Joe Tonnotti) that came in topping 92 MPH. The goal is to just come out every day to face the next team on the schedule, taking this one game at a time,” said Iannotti said. “The goal is to make the NVL and state tournament and we will just focus day by day one game at a time.”
Naugy is slated to close out the week against Torrington on Friday at 3:45 p.m. at home. Next week, the Hounds were scheduled play WCA on April 11 at 5 p.m. at Municipal Stadium, followed by an April 13 game against Seymour at French Park. Naugy hosts Watertown on April 16.
BY KEN MORSE