Zahornasky’s 3-hitters have Hounds running

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Zach Dreher scores the eventual game-winning run, on Anthony McKernan’s third-inning sacrifice fly, as Adam Blanchard looks on from the on-deck circle.Moments earlier, Dreher had crushed a run-scoring triple.
Zach Dreher scores the eventual game-winning run, on Anthony McKernan’s third-inning sacrifice fly, as Adam Blanchard looks on from the on-deck circle.Moments earlier, Dreher had crushed a run-scoring triple.

WATERTOWN — The Naugatuck baseball team got another strong effort Monday from junior pitcher Matt Zahornasky, who fired a three-hitter against Watertown in the Greyhounds’ 4-3 win over the Indians.

Zahornasky is now 2-0 on the season, throwing two complete games while allowing just six hits and one earned run to go with 16 strikeouts, in 14 innings, for the 3-1 Greyhounds.

“It certainly helps to have the guys playing solid defense behind you,” Zahornasky said. “This was a big win for us, especially coming off that game with Fairfield Ludlowe.”

The Greyhounds saw a fourth-inning lead disappear against Ludlowe, one of the top teams in the state, in a 17-7 loss Saturday.

Naugatuck began the season with a convincing, 7-1 win at Torrington, where Zahornasky spun a three-hitter, striking out six. Arber Mehmedi led the attack with three hits, including a double and two runs batted in. Brandon Halbert added two hits and an RBI from the leadoff spot.

Monday at Watertown, Naugy scored in its first at bat, when Halbert singled, stole second then came around to score on a single by Anthony McKernan.

The Indians took advantage of a couple of fielding miscues by the Hounds in the bottom of the first, plating two runs on Will Ernst’s big, run-scoring hit. Zahornasky showed what he’s made of, and struck out the side.

Naugatuck kept plugging away offensively, as Zack Mercer stroked a single to center to lead off the second. Zahornasky moved the runner to second base with a sacrifice bunt, and Matt D’Agnone ripped a line-drive single up the middle that tied the game at 2-2.

Zahornasky retired seven in a row, while his teammates were padding the lead. Mehmedi led off the third with a solid single to left, before Zach Dreher crushed a triple into the right field corner.

McKernan’s sacrifice fly to center brought home Dreher with the eventual game-winning run, as the Greyhounds were out in front by a 4-2 margin.

“I have a lot of confidence in our offense,” Zahornasky said. “If we can scrap together a couple of runs, our pitching and defense is enough to hold off our opponents. We missed the state tournament last year, and the guys are really pushing hard to get back there this season.”

Watertown clawed back with a run in the fourth. A double off the bat of Kellen Parkinson made it a 4-3 game. Breck Oliver came on in relief for the Indians and held Naugatuck hitless over the final four innings.

It came down to NHS making plays to preserve its lead down the stretch. Zahornasky surrendered a double in the fifth, only to strike out the final two batters and end the threat. McKernan backpedaled and made an over-the-shoulder catch on a foul pop to end the sixth.

Head coach Tom Deller, unafraid to go to his bench, inserted third baseman Brian Pihonak to start the final inning. The move paid off when Pihonak, with a full head of steam, made a diving stab on a bunt attempt to record the first out of the inning.

Dreher fielded a ball in the hole, stepped on second and fired a strike to McKernan at first for a game-ending double play.

Naugatuck beat Crosby, 11-6, Wednesday to remain perfect in the NVL, at 3-0.