By KEN MORSE
Often times, records can be deceiving when measuring the growth of a team. The Plainville softball team took another step on the road back to prominence as they prepare to finish out the season on Thursday against Berlin.
Plainville was eliminated from post season contention last Friday dropping a double-header to 13-6 Bristol Eastern by 8-0 and 14-0 margins. It marks the fourth year in a row that the 6-13 Lady Blue Devils came up short in their quest to secure a spot in the state tournament. Make no mistake by reading into that shortcoming as the PHS softball team is well on their way to a bright future.
Head coach Scott Marcucio came in last season and took over a program that generated just seven wins in the two years prior to his arrival. It’s not the first time that Marcucio has turned a ship around as he took over a Wamogo team that had one win in two years and guided them to the state tournament in his third season qualifying in four of the last six years at the helm.
“We are executing a lot more than we did at the start of the season,” said Marcucio. “Not as much as I would like but we are taking steps in the right direction in becoming a competitive team.”
Plainville was a mainstay in the state tournament putting together a stretch of 30 years in a row in the post season from 1981 through 2010, highlighted by five quarterfinal appearances and a Class M runner-up in 1986.
In the last eight years, the Lady Blue Devils made the states twice, most recently in 2014. Last season Marcucio went about the process of teaching the basic fundamentals and finding the pieces to put in place and PHS finished 5-15.
“The last three games we have been making plays at key moments and that shows progress,” said Marcucio. “We are playing good defense, we are getting bunts down and running the bases well. These are all signs of improvement and that’s what we want to see.”
During the course of this season, the Blue Devils found some consistency solidifying the infield and outfield positions and developing two quality pitchers. As with any young squad, there were growing pains along the way and times of excitement at the improvement that was made.
Plainville managed back-to-back wins twice during the season. Down the stretch they showed the confidence of a team on the rise snapping a five game skid winning two of three both in walk-off style.
The Blue Devils broke a five game losing streak earning a 10-9 win over East Catholic when Makenzie Caron delivered the game winning hit in the final inning. Kori Jones got Plainville on the board with a two run double in the first before East Catholic rallied to take a 7-4 lead.
Annie Roux (3 for 4, 2 runs, 2 RBI) started a comeback belting a third inning home run and Kaylee Lamothe had a productive day at the plate going 3 for 4 with 3 runs scored.
Three times during the season Plainville fell short by just one run losing 7-6 decisions to 14-4 Innovation and 8-11 Terryville two teams that are heading to the state tournament.
Entering the final week of the regular season the Blue Devils came up short in a 3-2 loss to Bristol Central. The record may not indicate it but if Plainville got a bounce or two to go their way those three games would have put them in the state tournament.
“We have been able to comeback and win games that a year ago wouldn’t have been possible,” said Marcucio. “A lot of these girls are still very young as far as varsity experience goes but they are all gaining confidence and that is the key when the game is on the line.”
Last Wednesday, the Blue Devils showed another part of their growth as a team with a tenacity that gave them a walk-off 6-5 win over Wethersfield. Trailing 5-1 Plainville struck for two runs in the fifth and won the game with three runs in their final at bat.
Shai Durham blasted a second inning triple to get Plainville on the board. A triple from Kayla Wisz highlighted a two run uprising in the fifth. Back-to-back one out singles in the bottom of the seventh by Makayla Caron and Mackenzie Alvarado set the table and a walk to Lamothe loaded the bases.
Walks to Roux, Makenzie Caron, and Jones sent in the three deciding runs for the 6-5 win. Alvarado stepped up and threw four shutout innings to keep Plainville in the game until the offense pulled it out.
“Kori has been hitting the ball real well and doesn’t get cheated in her swings,” said Marcucio. “Shai has been our DP the past few games and has given us some big hits in key situations. We are believing a lot more in ourselves. We are moving in the right direction and are playing the best we’ve had all year.”
Plainville heads into next season with a solid one-two combo of sophomore Alvarado and freshman Wisz sharing the duties in the pitchers circle and at first base. Sophomore Makayla Caron has developed into a solid defensive catcher and a productive bat in the lineup.
Sophomore Kaycee Newberry is a consistent defensive third baseman with the middle of the infield at shortstop and second showing signs of progress between junior Lamothe, sophomore Grace DiMinno and freshman Jones and Brooke Morgan.
Juniors Victoria Corriveau and Alyssa Roy in the outfield represent the leadership along with Lamothe and Durham. Sophomore outfielders Makenzie Caron, Mikayla Doucette, Phoebe Gediman and Kaylie Hall are the up and coming talent along with freshman Roux who has shown consistency at the plate.
While the first year under Marcucio was about honing their skills, this season was all about growth. Next year will come with a feel of expectation as the confidence has grown to a point of taking the next step.
“We have developed a good foundation,” said Marcucio. “We’ve had more hits than last year. Our batting average is much higher our on base percentage is higher we are trending in the right direction.”
Plainville is pounding on the door of respectability and it will only be a matter of time before the Lady Blue Devils answer that call.