By MICHAEL LETENDRE
WINSTED – It’s almost striking how the 2013 scholastic baseball season began and closed for the defending Class M champions, the Plainville Blue Devils.
And if you want to call the Blue Devils a team that couldn’t catch a break all season long, that would be an accurate assessment.
Plainville had so many teams against the ropes this season early (and late). But that one last knockout punch to seal off a victory or three always seemed to be missing.
And in the end, it proved costly.
Take Plainville’s first game of the season, an exciting contest between the Blue Devils and former Plainville assistant coach Chris Farrell and his Rocky Hill outfit for example.
A 6-2 fourth inning lead against the Terriers could not be sustained as the locals fell 9-7 to open the campaign.
And on Tuesday, May 28, Plainville put Northwestern in a 6-1 hole after four frames and in the end of that one, the Blue Devils fell 7-6 in 10 innings to the eventual Class M runner-up.
“The season ended the way it began if you think about it,” said Plainville coach Lou Mandeville. “In the beginning of the year, we had a lead (in) game one and couldn’t hold it. That’s what happened (against Northwestern).”
The funny part of the postseason occurred right from the start as several local newspapers had Woodland easily beating Plainville in a Class M play-in game and completely ignored the 8-12 Blue Devils.
No respect for the defending champs and all the credit for two top, yet untested seeds.
One newspaper quickly had Wolcott and Northwestern meeting on some sort of collision course even before the first pitch was thrown in the Class M opening round in the championship.
Well, my first question was how did that turn out?
You mean No. 2 Wolcott, the squad that was bounced out of the first round 9-8 by 34th ranked Granby?
And it mentioned No. 1 Northwestern as well who was nearly clubbed by No. 33 Plainville but found some way to survive at 7-6.
Sure, Northwestern proved to be legit but that team won its first three games by a total of only three runs and Plainville also had the upset going in first round action.
Woodland paid a dear price and the number one seed almost did as well.
And one more run would have gotten the job done against that Northwestern club.
“When Plainville gets in the tournament, they battle and we showed it against Northwestern,” said Mandeville. “(But) we went six innings without scoring a run. And when you go six innings without scoring a run, you give that other team a chance to come back. That’s what happened.”
In both the opening and closing games of the season, Brian Dostaler was the losing pitcher of record and all that proved was he was snake-bitten year.
Dostaler was a warrior in that Northwest game and snuck out of several jams as the senior proved that his final ledger was a little more than deceitful.
Same with senior pitcher Matt Thomas as Woodland found out and teams like Platt and Southington had to hold on to dear life to eek out victories in near no-hit or one-hit late inning situations.
Other seniors like Tyler Pina proved his worth all season long (4-for-4 the first time around against Platt, four RBI against Maloney) while Marc and Dean DeMartinis also shined from time to time.
Chad Welz proved to be more than a capable arm in the outfield while Tyler Favreau did a little of everything in the field or on the mound.
And Damien Kempi stuck with it all season long and when called upon, he produced as well.
With a boatload of underclassmen coming back to the Plainville fold next season, the Blue Devils will be looking to bigger and better things.
But after the near-win against Northwestern, Plainville’s coach had nothing but pride for his squad.
“I’m proud of the group,” said Mandeville. “I couldn’t ask for anything more except a ‘W’. Somebody had to win and it just wasn’t us.”
And after than 10-inning loss to Northwestern, Mandeville reflected not just on a special senior class – a group that made up part of the 2012 Class M championship team – but how special it is to be playing baseball in a Plainville uniform.
“They’re good kids,” said an emotional Mandeville. “There’s no better place to be than Plainville…it’s the place to be.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE