BRISTOL - While its 5-0 start to the season might imply otherwise, the St. Paul softball team is still growing and learning and that continued in Monday’s 5-3 loss to Seymour.
“This was a little building game,” St. Paul coach Gary Hovhanessian said. “[It was] like, ‘Okay, so it’s our first loss but let’s build on it and take the things that we could do better and we’ll work on it in practice.’ I think we made a little noise.”
The loss was the Falcons’ first of the season, one game later than last season’s first defeat, but the players and coaches were not overly unsatisfied or unhappy with the result against the Wildcats.
“It’s learning for us. I don’t think it was a bad game,” Brigid Johndrow said. “We’ve just got to limit our errors. We’re still growing and we’re still getting there. I think we’ve got a good shot but we’ve just got to improve on the physical errors. Our mental [game] is getting better. It was a good loss for us but we’ve still got a ways to go.”
St. Paul made three errors in Monday’s game, with two of them leading to Seymour runs. Two runs was ultimately the difference in the game, meaning the errors could be blamed for the Falcons’ defeat.
But besides the errors, the St. Paul defense continued its strong play on Monday behind ace Alessandra Milardo. The Falcons as a defensive corps only allowed nine hits to Seymour and kept it to five runs. The Wildcats had scored at least 16 runs in each of the four games entering the game against St. Paul and twice scored 20 or more.
Even compared to last season, the Falcons’ defense performed well. In two wins over St. Paul last season, the Wildcats scored 10 and 13 runs, respectively.
“The defense will keep us in every game,” Hovhanessian said. “We’ve been doing well with that.”
“We didn’t make it easy for them. They usually get 13, 15 runs but we held them to five,” Johndrow said. “And we hit them well in the last inning. They didn’t get scared but they felt pressure and they brought their ace in.”
There were also good signs on offense for the Falcons. Seymour has now only surrendered eight total runs through seven games and three of them were scored by St. Paul. Four different Falcons batters accounted for St. Paul’s five hits in Monday’s games and three of them batted in the bottom four spots in the lineup: sophomore Abby Poirot, junior Katelynn Oullette and freshman Janessa Gonzalez.
Oulette’s hit led off the bottom of the seventh and Gonzalez’s drove her in for the Falcons’ only run in the last inning. Poirot’s was a double in the fourth inning.
“Katelynn, that was a big hit for her because she’s been down a little bit but I think that was good for her,” Johndrow said. “And Janessa is just growing. It’s the younger kids getting up there.”
With the bottom of the lineup hitting, as well as Milardo’s bat coming to life - she had a double and a home run on Monday - the pressure is lifting off of Johndrow’s shoulders to carry the offense.
“Last year, it was a lot on me to get on and score and all that but if I’m having a tough day and we’re still scoring, that’s a good day for us,” she said. “I don’t like doing bad but it just kind of eases the pressure. I take it well.”
Johndrow went 0-for-2 at the plate against Seymour with two strikeouts and two walks, neither of which led to runs. But, even without their top offensive threat, the Falcons were able to stay with one of the best teams in the state and still had a chance to win in the bottom of the seventh.
“Other teams know that they have to get her out to beat us, to have a shot to beat us,” Hovhanessian said.
Monday’s loss could prove to be an important one for St. Paul as the season goes on. While some things went wrong - like Johndrow going cold - plenty went right and that is a good sign for the Falcons, especially because much of went wrong is not likely to happen very often. The Falcons now know what part of their game needs the most attention and what they need to do to win, even against some of the best teams in the state.
“Knowing that we can lose and knowing what we have to do to win a game like that,” Hovhanessian said about what his team will take away from Monday. “We talk about that all the time. We’re talking about winning one-run games, two-run games. We can win against the teams that are in the same caliber as Seymour. We know we can go out there and get a lot of hits and win games and make mistakes and win those games.
“But we also talk about, after we make those mistakes, that those are mistakes that we can’t make against teams like this to win games. We’re going to work on eliminating one more mistake, eliminating two more mistakes in a game, eliminating five more mistakes and anything - a passed ball, a bad pitch. [Seymour’s] home run was a [pitch] that was supposed to drop and get a ground ball out of it and it hung and she hit it out of the park. At the end of the season, every pitch is going to matter, every at-bat is going to matter [and] every inning is going to matter.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or email@example.com On Twitter: @K_baum30