By KEN MORSE
Baseball can be such an unforgiving game. No one ever said the journey through a season would be an easy trek. It’s often filled with bumps in the road that will test a teams character to overcome adversity.
The Plainville baseball team rolled up their sleeves and got after it winning five of six to close out the first half of the season at 6-4. Lately victory has remained just out of reach as the Blue Devils have lost five of the last six games and head into the final week of the regular season at 7-9.
Plainville High School entered last week looking to get back into the win column and secure a state tournament bid. They held a 5-3 lead over Platt on Monday before allowing a five run sixth inning dropping an 8-5 decision.
Against Berlin on Tuesday, the Blue Devils trailed 2-1 but a three run fourth inning took them out of it in a 7-1 loss. Middletown plated two runs in each of the first two innings on Wednesday and the PHS bats never got going as 15 strikeouts led to a 4-0 setback.
“The working hard has not stopped,” said Plainville head coach Lou Mandeville. “The will to be successful has not stopped. We come out everyday in practice and work hard. The ball is just not bouncing our way lately and it’s just been out of our reach.”
Plainville took on E.O. Smith on Friday and battled the Panthers in a 3-3 tie into the seventh inning. Nate Michalek surrendered three runs in the second before slamming the door shut as a pitchers duel ensued.
E.O. Smith drew a lead off walk in the top of the seventh and an infield error opened the door. Three straight hits just out of the reach of diving fielders created a momentum swing and when the dust settled the Panthers hung five runs on the board to secure an 8-3 win.
The Blue Devils third baseman Dylan Morrell stood in the way of the Panthers making six plays at the hot corner that thwarted a couple of E.O. Smith rallies. Catcher Juan Camacho also came up big with two throw outs on stolen base attempts and corralling a foul pop up in front of the visitors dugout.
Jordan Bishop led off the bottom of the first with a solid single to left. Brady Callahan laid down a sacrifice bunt to put the runner in scoring position. Bishop came around to score on a deep sacrifice fly from Michalek.
The 1-0 lead didn’t last as the Panthers plated three runs in the second on a lead off triple by Dylan Passardi, a walk and RBI singles from Derek Stebbins and Jack Jones.
PHS managed to tie the game with a two run uprising in the fourth. Michalek led off with a triple to right Christian Collin drew a walk and Tyler Mandeville singled in the run. Tyler Davis tied the game with a groundout.
The Blue Devils were poised to put it away in the fifth when Bishop collected his second hit of the game and Morrell was hit by a pitch. PHS had just what they wanted in that situation with the number four and five batter coming to the plate.
Michalek sent a drive to center that was fading fast but Passardi stretched out making a diving catch to take away a run scoring hit. Camacho hit a blooper that appeared out of reach but second baseman Phil Nevin who made an over the shoulder snare to end the inning.
“You look at those two balls we hit and that shows just where we are at,” said Mandeville. “We had the batters coming up in a tie game that we wanted and the centerfielder makes a diving stop and the second baseman makes a sensational play. That’s how close we have been. But like I said we just need to have the bounces go our way.”
“They go into the dugout with that momentum and they put an inning together. We just need to keep at it and when we do string a few hits together maybe we can get that momentum on our side and get back in the win column.”
Morrell came on in relief of Michalek to start the seventh and the wheels came off the wagon. A leadoff walk on a 3-2 pitch got it started followed by an infield error. That set the table and the Panthers responded with Clay Tamburri, Brandon Koehler and Passardi delivering seeing-eye run scoring hits through the infield. Mason Sarra came on to try and close the door and when the inning was over E.O. Smith out in front 8-3.
“It is what it is,” added Mandeville. “It’s high school baseball and sometimes plays are made and sometimes they’re not. We just have to keep fighting. It comes down to we have to get the momentum back on our side.”
Plainville needs one more win to qualify for the post season and will have that chance this week as they face Bristol Central on Monday, Glastonbury on Wednesday, and Bristol Eastern on Friday. The regular season comes to a close the following Monday against Berlin.