By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – The Plainville baseball team – for the second consecutive campaign – had to battle into the state tournament field of 32 in Class M play via a play-in game.
Last season, Woodland was no match for the Blue Devils in the same type of situation; but this time around, Plainville got to host the play-in game from the friendly confines of Alumni Field on Saturday, May 31.
Trailing early against No. 34 Griswold, the Blue Devils nabbed the lead for good in the third inning of play as Plainville – ranked 31st in the Class M fray – defeated the Wolverines 10-5 to advance to the first round of the postseason bracket.
With the victory, Plainville took on second rated Plainfield on Monday, June 2 and dropped a tough 10-1 decision to end its season at 10-12.
But against Griswold, the Blue Devils blasted out 10 hits and made the Wolverines’ defense make mistakes in the field that the home team capitalized on throughout the contest.
“You’ve got to hit the baseball on the ground,” said Plainville coach Lou Mandeville. “When you hit the baseball on the ground, good things are going to happen. You make kids pick it up and throw it (the ball), you hustle down the line and you put some pressure on them and you give yourself a chance that good things are going to happen.”
“You hit the baseball in the air, it’s going to be caught.”
And from about the third frame on, Plainville showed poise at the plate, took what the pitching gave and notched four runs apiece in both the third and fifth tilts of action.
Matt Sauvron smashed out two hits and collected two RBI, Rob Pezzulo went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI, while John Lindgren was a perfect 2-for-2 with two walks, a stolen base, a run scored, and an RBI.
“That was our focus,” said Mandeville. “Our focus was to get better pitches to hit, be a little more patient at the plate. They walked a few of us, we hit it on the ground, (took advantage of) a couple mistakes here and there and then get a base hit to mix it in…you find a way to score ten runs.”
Cody Charneski also drew two base-on-balls, beat out an infield hit, and scored two runs while fellow captain Shane Pugliese scored twice and legged out a bunt hit during the fourth stanza of play.
On defense, the Blue Devils made some big plays while Mike Munson started the game on the mound for the home team.
Munson gave Plainville all he could and lasted into the fourth frame in a rare starting assignment.
He struck out six over his 3.2 innings of work, with his fastball topping out at 86 mph, and left the contest with a 5-4 lead in hand.
“He battled,” said Mandeville of Munson. “He’s getting better. A year ago, he wasn’t pitching at all. He’s just got to learn to fight through situations and keep focus on the next pitch (which) is the important pitch.”
“But he’s getting better, he gave us something today, he got us halfway into the game and that helped out our pitching staff…and we pieced it together the rest of the way.”
Sauvron saw some action at the hill as did ace Brett Snowden along with John Lindgren to close the thing out.
Each thrower added a little something to the winning effort.
Griswold (8-13) hung around in the contest but was limited to just four hits but took advantage of several free passes via walks and hit batters.
Adam Davis led the Wolverines with a double and two walks while Tyler Shaw zipped up a hit, a walk and was hit-by-a-pitch.
Griswold led 2-0 off the bat, trailed by a 5-2 tally, eventually cut it to 6-5 before four unanswered runs in the fifth by Plainville turned the tide of the game for good.
“It was a scrappy, scrappy game,” said Mandeville. “Griswold did a nice job of battling back but it was big to score some runs after and spread it out a little bit.”
After a scoreless first inning of play, the Wolverines tacked two runs on the board to take the initial advantage in the game.
Tyler Shaw singled to get on but Munson fanned the next two batters and it appeared the leadoff hit was for not.
But a double to right from Joel Garcia plated Shaw and Griswold nabbed a 1-0 push.
After intentionally walking Davis to load up the bases, Evan Durham drew ball four – leading to an RBI – as the Wolverines led 2-0.
Plainville came back in its portion of the second.
Started by an infield hit by Charneski and off two consecutive walks, the home team had the bases loaded with no outs.
But all Plainville got out of it was a passed ball score – by Charneski – as the Blue Devils cut the deficit to 2-1 after two completed frames.
In the third, Munson walked Shaw but ended the frame with two Ks as Plainville was about to grab the lead for good.
Pezzulo started the rally with a one-out double to the right field wall as the party was just getting started by the home squad.
With two outs, Charneski earned a base-on-balls and from there, Lindgren and Bubba Milo hit back-to-back RBI singles to propel the Blue Devils to a 3-2 push it would never relinquish.
Kyle Beloin followed up by beating out an infield hit as Lindgren crossed the plate for an additional run.
However, the ball was thrown away and Milo also scored and quickly, Plainville ended the third stanza with a 5-2 lead in hand.
Munson quickly sent down the first two batters he faced via strikeout in the fourth. But an error, coupled with a hit-by-a-pitch situation with the bases already loaded, Plainville’s lead was eventually trimmed to 5-4.
Sauvron came on to relieve Munson and got Zak Christensen to ground out as the Blue Devils were hanging on to its one run lead.
Plainville, with Pugliese on third and Sauvron on first, went to a little small ball and snared another run.
Sauvron baited the throw as he went to steal second base.
The throw to the bag went wild and Pugliese easily scored from third to make it a 6-4 game after four.
In the fifth, Plainville made an error that enabled Paxson Ings to score a run and Griswold was within one at 6-5.
But with Snowden (two innings, 2 Ks) and Lindgren taking the mound, another run would not be had by the visitors.
And in the fateful bottom of the fifth, Plainville put up an additional four runs on the board to thwart any chance of a Wolverine comeback.
Lundgren, Bubba, and Beloin all drew base-on-balls to open the fifth inning and with two outs and the bases loaded, Sauvron and Pezzulo uncorked back-to-back, two-RBI singles as the Plainville cushion grew to 10-5 after five completed tilts.
That would end the scoring in the game as the Blue Devils advanced to take on second-ranked Plainville off its five-run jolting of tough Griswold.
“The philosophy is to find a way to play another day,” said Mandeville, “and that’s what we did today.”
NOTES…On Monday, June 2, Plainville lost a 10-1 decision to second ranked Plainfield to end its 2014 campaign. Plainville notched six quick first inning runs – getting three more in the sixth – to put things out of reach early.