By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – The Plainville baseball team could have taken the easy way out this season when choosing its non-conference games this year.
But credit belongs to the program as it loaded its slate with tough competitors such as St. Paul and the likes of CCC Interdivisional challenger Southington.
And on Saturday, April 13, the Blue Devils and Knights put on quite a display before Southington scored several runs late as the visitors picked up 4-0 victory from Alumni Field in Plainville.
The Blue Devils fell to 1-4 on the season while the Knights improved to 4-1.
With a 0-0 deadlock going into the sixth inning, Southington used a two-out rally to zip up a 3-0 tally and never looked back.
“Good baseball teams get timely hits, two-out hits,” said Plainville coach Lou Mandeville. “Southington did that (today).”
Plainville had its best on the mound in the form of senior Matt Thomas and the veteran pitcher did not disappoint.
He showed excellent poise and control early, dominating the Knights a couple times through the batting order.
But he was the pitcher of record who took the loss on this particular occasion.
The shame of it all was Thomas pitched a whale of a ball-game but suffered through a tough sixth inning in what turned into a bad luck stanza for the Blue Devil.
Unofficially, Thomas was throwing a no-hitter through 5.2 innings as the only two batters who reached base were off Plainville errors.
In that fateful sixth frame, Thomas picked up two quick outs in the scoreless fray.
But four straight hits led two three runs as Southington knocked Thomas out of the game and the Knights scooped up a 3-0 push, never looking back.
Thomas pitched extremely well, giving up just the four hits, three earned runs, three strikeouts and did not issue a free pass in the game while making Southington swing its bats all game long.
At one point, Thomas had retired 12 straight batters in the game from the end of the first inning to the middle of the fifth frame.
He fell to 0-2 on the season but certainly deserved a better fate.
“I thought Matt pitched great,” said Mandeville of Thomas. “I thought that he was a bulldog. I told Matt (after the game) watching that outing and the mound, we’re heading in the right direction. I thought he was a competitor, I thought he came to win a ball-game and I thought he came to beat a very good baseball team. And you get a couple two-out hits like Southington did, those hits are going to win the game for you.”
On the other side of things, Southington pitcher Joe Rivera was also on the money as he threw a two-hit shutout but Plainville let him off the hook more than a couple times in the showdown.
To his credit, the chucker went the distance, racked up 10 strikeouts, and made Plainville work for everything.
Rivera faced six full count situations in the contest but did not allow a base-on-balls as the Blue Devils were 1-for-6 at the plate during those pressure packed appearances.
Plainville didn’t show much patience at the plate either and that turned out to be costly in the end.
“On our offensive side, we’ve got some work to do,” said Mandeville. “We’re not disciplined at the plate and we’re not getting our hats up at the plate. We’re wishing to make contact. But we’ll keep working.”
“I told them (after the game) we’re not even giving ourselves a chance at the plate…we’re not putting any pressure on the defense.”
Southington got a runner onboard via error in the first frame but went nowhere while Dean DeMartinis tallied an infield hit in the bottom of the stanza for the home team.
However, the score remained 0-0 after one and the game was afoot.
Thomas didn’t give the Knights much to work with but in the third, Plainville’s Cody Charneski popped in a single to left with one out.
But Charneski did not score as the scoreless affair continued.
From there, Rivera retired 12 of the final 13 batters to end the game, giving his offense time to finally break through in the grudge match in a big sixth inning for Southington.
With two outs gone in the sixth, the Knights put together its game-ending rally.
Southington’s Ted Shaw started the jaunt with a double to centerfield while a single to center from Matt Sirois scored the lead runner as Southington went in front 1-0.
Andrew Goralski followed up with a slow roller that just died in back of the pitcher’s mound as two runners were on.
The Knights’ Matt DiNello cleaned up by slamming a ball to deep center as both runners scored and the two-RBI hit made it a 3-0 game after six.
The Blue Devils inserted closer Tyler Favreau into game to end the sixth and he remained in the fray during the seventh as Southington scored one last time.
With runners on the corners, Brett Shaw looped a fly-ball to right for an out but Justin Rose crossed the plate for one final run as sacrifice fly put Southington ahead 4-0.
Rivera finished the game by striking out the final two batters he faced as Plainville dropped a tough 4-0 contest.
“Rivera’s a very good pitcher,” said Mandeville. “He threw really, really well. But that’s what you want and you need to make adjustments. You’ve got to make adjustments up there (at the plate) and you just can’t go up there and be the same hitter every time up.”
“You’ve got to make adjustments, shorten your swing, use the whole field and put the ball in play…we didn’t do that today.”
NOTES…In the sixth inning, DiNello slammed a foul ball into one of the press box windows, violently smashing it. Plainville volleyball coach and baseball sound effects guru Steve Compson quickly opened another window in the press box and waved a white flag of surrender off the violent sounding smash.