By KEN MORSE
The Plainville baseball team finished the regular season on a tough stretch for the second year in a row dropping the last eight decisions ending at 7-13. Hard work and showing perseverance by not giving up does have its rewards.
The Blue Devils are ranked 29th in the Class M division and will play in the state tournament after seeing a streak of over 35 years in the post season come to an end last year.
Plainville is in line to take on the 4th ranked 16-4 Plainfield in the first round on Tuesday May 29th. Head coach Lou Mandeville was quick to point out that anything can happen in these tournaments and regardless of a teams record everyone starts out with a chance to win.
In 2012 Plainville was ranked 11th at 13-7 and marched all the way to the Class M state championship going 5-0 in the post season. Last year Foran of Milford became the first team ranked 32nd at 7-13 to go on and win a state championship in Class L.
The Blue Devils were at 7-5 on the season and appeared to be well on their way when an injury forced a change in the lineup and the offense began to struggle. Over the last eight games, the offense scored just 15 runs culminating with back-to-back shutouts 5-0 to Bristol Eastern last Friday and a 4-0 loss to Berlin on Monday.
“We’ve had guys on base and it came down to not being able to get them across the plate,” said Mandeville. “It really puts a lot of pressure on the pitchers and it creates pressure for the defense. There is no margin for error when you are not putting runs on the board.”
“We are basically a young team. We tried to blend some of the younger kids with the seniors who will be graduating. At times we’ve had three or four freshman and sophomores out there, who gained valuable experience.”
“Since Tyler St. Onge got hurt we played four different guys at third base. Sometimes when things are not going well you need to juggle the lineup to try and get something going.”
Plainville did have success early on led by senior pitchers Dylan Morrell and Jordan Bishop. Seniors Ricky Freitas and outfielder Matt Bialko added to the team leadership and they will be tough to replace next season.
The Blue Devils returned from their Florida trip and went on a run winning five of six. Several juniors stepped up and began to solidify their role in the lineup. Brady Callahan at the top of the lineup using his speed to get things started.
Nate Michalek was a consistent bat in the lineup and a reliable pitcher keeping Plainville in the game. Catcher Juan Camacho was another big bat and his defensive skills were an asset throwing out base runners.
Tyler St. Onge at third base was a key to the infield defense and was also a consistent bat in the middle of the lineup. Those juniors along with Tyler Davis, Alec Karol, Ryan Snyder and Tyler Miller will give the Blue Devils solid leadership heading into next season.
Coach Mandeville took the opportunity to develop some of the young talent to try and plug some of the holes that will be left through graduation. Sophomores Wyatt Lacombe, Mason Sarra, and Tyler Mandeville all took huge steps in moving into the varsity lineup.
“Wyatt developed into a solid player for us,” said Mandeville. “Mason and Tyler both pitched varsity innings and will be relied even more next year. Karol threw some innings and so did Alec Couture.”
Freshman Couture and Christian Collin gained valuable varsity experience and will take those lessons into next season looking to take on bigger roles. For a team heading into the post season and graduating just four seniors, the future looks bright for the Blue Devils.
“Just having one player get hurt caused us to move infielders around and it took a big bat out of the lineup,” said Mandeville. “But some of the younger kids got some good experience and will help us to be a stronger team next year.”
“You can look at it that Plainfield will be a tough challenge for us. But the toughest team we will face is the next team on our schedule. There are 32 teams in the tournament and we all start at 0-0 and anything can happen.”
“We are playing Tuesday and the goal is to be playing on Wednesday. We had a great practice today and the team is confident. We feel the teams we played during the season has prepared us for the tournament and we are ready to go.”