By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – It’s very easy for a summer baseball program to just play the games the league puts out for the squad.
And when it comes to American Legion baseball, a lot of squads just play the minimum number of games.
Some teams are afraid of stretching pitchers and players alike.
But the squad from Plainville went in a different direction this season.
And that change will surely pay dividends come next spring and summer.
Plainville, playing in its usual 21 Zone 7 games, followed Bristol’s lead and picked up a number of exhibition and non-zone games.
The results were more playing time for Post 33 and its young core got invaluable experience on the field because of it in 2014.
“Within the last half of the year, the (young) kids had gotten past the fear factor and really came along,” said Plainville coach Jim Tufts. “They were seeing a lot more playing time, they were playing a lot more regularly and the reason why they were was because they were playing so well.”
Plainville took part in nearly a dozen-and-a-half or so extra games and those contests only helped the squad in terms of seasoning and experience.
And there’s no better way to get experience than getting on the field and playing.
Hartford did the same thing, taking on 16 additional games this past season and that growing program posted a first round upset of Zone 1 frontrunner Avon in the state tournament.
And it was no surprise to see how the additional play helped Plainville.
Outfielders like Grant Sarra, Josh Thompkins and Jon Olson all benefited from extended time on the field and that trio is a big part the of Plainville’s future success.
“Grant Sarra was unbelievably defensively for us this year,” said Tufts. “He’s basically kept us in games with some of his catches. Same thing with Josh Thompkins. We’ve been bringing up Jon Olson, another outfielder, playing third base.”
The additional game model is something Bristol used for years and the logic was simple.
You can’t use all 18 of your players in the same game, realistically, so why not play programs from all around the state, enter a couple tournaments and get your guys on the bench some time on the field?
And while Plainville did get blasted in some of those exhibition affairs, the goal was a bigger picture mindset.
“All in all, we knew what kind of a year we were going to have,” said Tufts. “We were very young. We played almost 40 games this year. We got blown out a few times, you take your lumps and that’s what happens when you go young against 18 and 19 year old teams.”
So a close loss to end Plainville’s season against Bristol or a 10-run defeat to that same squad a month earlier wasn’t the most important part of the process.
But the improvement was because the second time around, Plainville really made Bristol work for that 3-0 win on Saturday, July 19.
It was getting the contingent of Mike Wiszniak, a promising pitcher, and the duo of Jared and Ryan Sgroi, who have shown promise on multiple occasions as well, out on the field.
And Buzz Adams also has shown some promise on the hill.
“Our freshmen, Mike Wiszniak and Ryan Sgroi, a sophomore, Jared Sgroi is another sophomore [who have earned playing time this year],” said Tufts. “It just goes on and on.
“Buzz Adams pitched great against Tri-Country in that 16 inning game that we ended up losing. But there are a lot of young, great kids that have a lot of promise for the future.”
Kyle Beloin should be back next year off a stint with an AAU team and Jon Lindgren is also scheduled to come back to the Plainville Legion program as well.
Getting that duo back – and playing them with talents like Sam Lindgren and the like— the future is bright for Post 33.
“This is our team for next year,” said Tufts. “And there’s a lot of promise. It’s a bright future. I like what I see, I like the young kids, I like their attitude, they come here ready to play, they’re excited and that’s positive. They grew up this year. They grew up a lot.”
“It’s got to be a bright future for Lou (Mandeville’s high school team) next year.”