By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – The Plainville softball team had an opportunity to secure a state tournament berth on Thursday, May 9 against a scrappy squad from Middletown.
But missed opportunities by the Blue Devils foiled the evening as Plainville fell to Middletown 6-2 from Alumni Field.
With the victory, the Blue Dragons (8-8) broke its three game losing streak and also qualified for the state tournament in the process.
The Blue Devils (7-7) will have to wait for another day for playoff qualification but the team will have six more chances at it. They already have surpassed last season’s win total of six.
Middletown seized just about every opportunity that came its way offensively as the middle of the order made some big plays at the plate.
Ashley Tucker (1-for-3, RBI), Maddy Feshler (2-for-4), Kersti Noetzel (1-for-4) and Alexys Davila (2-for-3, BB, 2 runs) led the way for the Blue Dragons and combined for six total hits.
“The middle of their line-up really hit the ball hard,” said Plainville coach Jen Micowski. “They produced their runs on solid, solid hits, and I think that we had opportunities to advance base-runners and we didn’t come up with solid hits.”
“Their middle of the line-up hit the ball really well.”
Plainville tallied only three hits in the fray.Early in the game, however, the Blue Devils moved the ball around the field quite nicely.
Sarah Ercoli (1-for-3), Cheyenne Dalke (1-for-3), and Alexis Ruscito (1-for-3) all scooped up hits in the game and thanks to the early offense, Plainville led 2-1 after one completed frame of play.
The Blue Dragons went in front 1-0 after half an inning of play but thanks to some solid Plainville defense, the only run Middletown was able to muster was off a sacrifice fly by Tucker.
In Plainville’s portion of the first, the Blue Devils went on the attack off pitcher Cara Brainard (7-8).
Sarah Ercoli started the game with a single. But late in the frame, the Blue Devils were down to its final out with the bases loaded.
From there, Ruscito blasted a single to right field as Dalke and Katy Dressel crossed the plate to turn a one-run deficit into a one-run lead.
But from that point in the game, the bats went silent for Plainville sans a loud double by Dalke that was smashed to left.
“Against Berlin last week, we had a late start and we showed our spark in the sixth and seventh,” said Micowski. “Against Middletown, we came out with a lot of spark in the first and second inning…now we just have to work on being consistent and keeping it going all the way through the game from start to finish, from inning one through seven.”
“If we can get that to happen and contribute each and every inning, each and every time at-bat, we’ll be in a good position.”
A couple of controversial calls by the officiating crew didn’t do the home team any favors as those couple extra outs for the visitors gave Middletown added chances to tally runs on the board.
On the mound, Brainard threw a three-hitter while striking out seven for Middletown and late in the game, she completely shut down the Plainville offense.
In fact, after issuing a base-on-balls to Gina D’Amico, Brainard retired the final 10 batters she faced and didn’t allow a hit after the third tilt of action.
Lost in the effort was a super game by Plainville’s Rachel Lancaster on the mound.
She gave up just the six runs off 11 hits but she struck out two and retired the side in the seventh inning.
Her efforts helped to keep her squad in the contest.
“She did pitch well,” said Micowski of Lancaster. “She hit her spots. You know, she put a few people on base without making them work for it but she’s definitely working at getting that number down and I think she threw really well today.”
Trailing by one heading into the second stanza, Middletown’s Maddie Landry belted a sacrifice fly for a run. Meanwhile, Brainard zipped an RBI single to left as the Blue Dragons moved ahead 3-2.
Leading by one in the third, Kayla Brown put the ball in play in a bases loaded situation but could not get the force out at home as Middletown increased its edge to 4-2 after three.
Thanks to a throwout at home play — off a toss in by Dressel from centerfield to Ercoli at shortstop to Ruscito at home— Brainard was tagged out and the game remained a 4-2 affair.
The Blue Dragons added a run in the fifth off an error. Then in the sixth, Brainard tagged home plate for another tally as Middletown led 6-2 after six completed frames.
Both teams did not score in the seventh as the visitors held on to defeat Plainville by four runs.
“We came up some big (defensive) plays, throwing them out from the outfield, and a few situations where we had them out. But it went the other way (tonight)” said Micowski. “That’s the game of softball. So, we’re going to keep working, keep battling for that number eight (victory).”