By KEN MORSE
The 1-4 start to the baseball season has become a distant memory. The Plainville Blue Devils have assembled a successful stretch, winning eight of their last nine contests to qualify for the Class M state tournament.
The turnaround began with an offense that has racked up an average of eight runs per game over the nine-game stretch, buoyed by a couple of pitching performances that have been in lockdown mode.
Junior right-hander Tyler Mandeville tossed the latest of the gems, spinning a one-hitter through six innings during a 10-1 victory over Hartford Public on Thursday, May 9. Mandeville struck out eight batters to score his fourth straight win.
Junior lefty Nate Johnson scored his own four-game winning streak over the nine-game rally. Johnson posted back-to-back complete game efforts with an 11-1 win over Manchester (5 innings, 3 hits) and a two-hit, seven-inning gem over Maloney 5-1 on May 2.
“Nate has better command of his pitches lately,” said Plainville head coach Lou Mandeville. “He’s keeping the ball down more. You are still going to get your walks here and there when you are trying to mix it up. But the biggest difference is he’s not leaving it out there over the middle of the plate.”
Last week the Blue Devils were rocking and rolling, hanging 30 runs on the board in three games. On Monday May 6, Plainville was in a battle with Platt of Meriden tied at 4-4 entering the bottom of the fifth.
“We have been getting good pitches to hit and that has been the spark in our offense,” said Mandeville. “We have done a good job staying away from the elevated pitch out of the strike zone. When we get to two strikes we are battling and fouling pitches off. We stay with it and get the barrel on the ball and good things have been happening.”
Platt was averaging just four runs per game, but the Blue Devils scored nine times during a 9-6 victory, including a five-run rally to put the game away. Mandeville, Brennan Staubley, Brady Callahan and Tyler Bonney delivered the game-changing RBIs during the uprising.
Callahan went 3-for-3 with a run and two RBI. Staubley went 2-for-3 with three RBI, and Mandeville went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI to pace the attack.
Tyler Dufour got the start on the hill surrendering one run through three innings, Alec Couture picked up the win going two and a third striking out four with Ryan Snyder earning the save pitching one and two-thirds.
Plainville took on Middletown last Wednesday, a team that has allowed just four and half runs a game, and the Blue Devils bats kept on swinging plating runs in five of seven innings on the way to a 10-5 win.
Johnson picked up the win on the hill going four innings and Snyder delivered three innings of shutout relief for his second save of the week. Tyler St. Onge, Mason Sarra and Wyatt LaCombe all had two hits, two runs and a double to key the attack.
Plainville finished up the week last Thursday against Hartford Public and Mandeville was on his game from the first pitch. The junior righty threw first pitch strikes to 12 of 20 batters faced with 46 strikes in a 67 pitch masterpiece. He surrendered just one hit, while striking out eight.
“Tyler did a nice job getting ahead of the hitters and that was the key,” said coach Mandeville. “He attacked the strike zone and then did a nice job mixing up his pitches.”
Mandeville finished as he started striking out the side in the sixth before giving way to senior Alec Karal in his first appearance of the season who struck out two in the seventh inning.
“It was good to have Karal back it gives us another option out of the bullpen. Ryan (Snyder) has been giving us quality innings out of the pen. He throws strikes and hits his spots. He has great command of his pitches and it helps him to be successful.”
The Blue Devils put up all the runs they would need in the second inning when they exploded for a seven run outburst. Juan Camacho got it going with a bases loaded two run single. Callahan (2 for 4, 1 run, 3 RBI) unloaded a bases loaded two run double and this one was headed for the win column.
Bonney went 3 for 4, Louis Passaretti went 2 for 2 with 2 runs scored and Dufour added a run scoring single to highlight a two run sixth inning.
“The key is we are getting good pitches to hit, the defense is playing well and the pitching has been solid,” said Mandeville. “We are going to take this one inning at a time and one game at a time. We have good team chemistry. The kids are rooting for each other to do well and they are playing with a lot of confidence.”
Plainville will face a busy schedule this week starting on Monday at Muzzy Field in Bristol for a 3:45 contest against Bristol Central. The Blue Devils will be home the rest of the week hosting RHAM at 7 pm on Tuesday, a 6 pm showdown on Thursday against Somers and will finish the week hosting Bristol Eastern at 6 pm on Friday.