By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – When the St. Paul softball team attacked right off the bat in the squad’s non-league contest at Plainville on Friday, April 10, the Falcons ended the suspense after just a half inning of play.
St. Paul ramped up four first inning runs and never let the Blue Devils get foothold in the game.
And in the end, the Falcons took the game by a double-digit tally, 11-1, from the softball field at Plainville high school.
It was the third game in three days for St. Paul (3-0) while Plainville (1-1) lost for just the first time this season.
The veteran Falcons challenged the younger Blue Devils from the start, putting the ball in play off several infield tallies to build a quick 4-0 push Plainville would never recover from.
“We started right from the get-go,” said St. Paul coach Gary Hovhanessian. “We played a little small ball, we put some bunts on the ground to get ahead in the game. [I] have no complaints, I like the way the hitting was.”
Plainville’s defense didn’t help out pitcher Kiya Broughton any as the home squad made numerous gaffes that extended the outing for the up-and-coming prospect.
“We made errors we shouldn’t be making,” said Plainville coach Jen Gombotz. “We focused on some of those situations that caught up with us today and we have a lot of work to move forward in those situations in the game.”
The Blue Devils made two errors early in the first inning as the visitors batted around.
With one on, St. Paul chucker Alessandra Milardo (2-for-3, 4 runs, 3 RBI) hit into a fielder’s choice – scoring Brigid Johndrow from third – to make it a 1-0 contest.
However, Milardo beat out the throw to first and it was just the start of a long frame for the Blue Devils.
Maddie Sturm (3-for-4, RBI, 3 stolen bases) doubled to left to get onboard; Lauren Benoit then bunted and hustled down the first base line for a hit to load things up.
Those miscues hurt the home team. A couple of routine plays could have kept those additional runners of the base-paths.
“Kiya is a tough kid,” said Gombotz of her pitcher. “I think that’s the toughest role is when errors are committed and you should be out of innings and you have to pitch for eight outs instead of three outs. It’s difficult to do especially when you lead the game off like that in the first inning and we could have been out of it 1-2-3. Instead, we’re throwing the ball around a little bit.”
With the bases juiced, Corinne Johndrow drew a base-on-balls, as did Emily Sklenka, as the bases loaded walks made it a 3-0 contest.
And finally off an infield single from Brook Perez, Benoit scooted across the plate to propel the Falcons to an imposing 4-0 push before Plainville could even get an at-bat.
“I think in the first inning, St. Paul had three of the four runs unearned, and you can’t start off a game with giving up three unearned runs and thinking that you’re mentality is going to be able to take that blow,” said Gombotz.
Broughton battled the entire way, allowing 10 hits and striking out six, going the distance in the tough losing effort.
She did not allow a run to score over the third, fifth, and seventh frames – showing what she can do when the Plainville defense and the chucker were are all on the same page.
But in that first inning, those gaffes and goofs saw just about every player in the line-up contribute to that 4-0 push.
“We had to see the entire line-up in the first inning, which is tough mentally as a pitcher to battle from and I think she did a good job handling it,” said Gombotz of Broughton.
On the other side, Milardo was tough, allowing just six hits, and making life at the plate miserable for the Blue Devils throughout the affair.
Milardo struck out out five, walked only one, and was itching for the shutout which Plainville spoiled with a little zest to end the contest.
“She pitched a shutout yesterday,” said Hovhanessian of Milardo against Sacred Heart. “She was upset at the end. She wanted two shutouts in a row. We did all right.”
It looked as if a hot shot to center field from Plainville’s Shyanne Bradley (2-for-3, RBI) was going to drop in for the Blue Devils to open the bottom of the third; but defensively, Brigid Johndrow was up to the task.
Johndrow, playing a tough center field for St. Paul, charged forward, stretched out and scooped in the ball – extinguishing a possible Plainville drive that could have dented the score a bit.
“It was unbelievable,” said Hovhanessian of the Brigid Johndrow catch.
Milardo padded the lead in the second tilt with an inside-the-park homer to left and quickly, the Falcons were ahead 5-0 after two innings.
Milardo and Sturm slapped back-to-back RBI triples in the top of the fourth; while a double steal saw Sturm cross the plate as St. Paul nabbed an 8-0 push and was in complete control.
Plainville’s Rachel Lancaster dropped in a bloop single to left in the bottom of the fourth to finally get a hit on the board for the Blue Devils but that elusive first run remained elusive.
The Falcons added three runs in the top of the sixth to make it an 11-0 contest.
Benoit laid down a sacrifice bunt that was booted, allowing Milardo to score and make it a 9-0 game.
A double steal made it a 10-0 push while an RBI single from Jana Malanga plated one last run as St. Paul was rolling at that point.
But Plainville refused to give in and the squad finally put something together over their final inning of work.
With one out, Gina D’Amico singled to left while Broughton drew a base hit to right to put two on.
And then with runners on second and third with two outs, Bradley slipped in a infield shot that just got by the glove of Sturm at shortstop – scoring D’Amico – that made it an 11-1 contest.
But off one final strikeout from Milardo, St. Paul sealed up the victory and a big 10-run victory over a very game Plainville squad.
“She started where she left off [last season] and that’s what we wanted her to do,” said Hovhanessian of Milardo. “Hopefully, she gets better.”
And while the double-figure loss was a gloomy total on the scoreboard for the home squad, the Blue Devils will improve from the outing and continue to improve in CCC action.
“I think it’s a learning experience,” said Gombotz. “We’re really young in certain positions and I thought at the start of the season, we had a really good preseason in the gym and out here [but] I think today, we took a few steps backwards, but it’s early enough for us to rebound from this so that’s what we’re going to work on going into next week.”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE