With high school sports transitioning between the fall and winter seasons, the new season officially got underway last week and it certainly got off to an exciting start.
A number of area athletes turned in quality performances with Plainville’s Dominic Pedrolini and Caitlin Barker near the top of the list.
The Blue Devils wrestling team won its first dual meet of the season in thrilling 43-42 win over Newington that came down to tiebreaker points with Pedrolini having one, if not the most, decisive matches at 120 pounds.
“All that was going through my head was ‘don’t give up, don’t give up,’” Pedrolini said. “One of my goals for this year - coach made us write down our goals before the season - was to give 100 percent in every match and I emphasized that in my head and kept on thinking about that and executed and won it.”
Down 8-3 in the third period against the Indians’ Emilio Cruz, Pedrolini managed to turn the deficit into a pin. With just 14 seconds left in the match, the junior managed to turn Cruz and pin him on his back for the win.
“I told him with such little time left, he’s got to go big and he went big,” Plainville head coach Rusty Spence said. “He stunned that kid. I don’t think that kid was expecting to be on his back there at the end. It was awesome, the whole place erupted. But I knew he could do it. I’ve got a lot of faith in him.”
But Pedrolini wasn’t quite done with the strong start to his season. Over the weekend at the Plainville Invitational, he placed second in the 120-pound division, the second highest individual placement for the Blue Devils along the way.
And such a strong start to the early portion of the season has Pedrolini feeling confident after injuries plagued the team last year.
“This gives us confidence going into the rest of the season,” Pedrolini said. “If we can win a match like [Newington] and we have a lot of new guys stepping up, I feel like we can do good this year.”
The Plainville girls basketball team opened up its season 1-1 last week in part thanks to the strong effort of Barker.
The Blue Devils fell to New Britain 63-52 but then the next day, topped Bristol Eastern 61-55. In those two games, the junior forward scored a combined 61 points.
““[Barker] is an intramural part of our team,” Blue Devils head coach Jessica Neuweller said. “Having her back is phenomenal. [Last]Monday she started off the season with 27 points, had a great game [Thursday]. I think the biggest thing about Barkery is the passion she plays with.”
Barker recently returned from an ACL injury that cost her all but four games last season.
The forward simply went up for rebound, pulled it down and ran to the other side of the court. When Barker went to bring the ball up to the basket, she jumped up and just happened to land the wrong way.
“Ten months I hadn’t played,” said Barker after Thursday night’s game against Bristol Eastern. “It’s hard because you have the physical therapy, you have the surgery, you know it does take time to get that mentality back. I struggled. It was chunk by chunk. I’d be cleared for a few things but not everything else.”
Neuwelle said Barker’s injury clearly affected the Blue Devils throughout the rest of their season. Last year, Plainville finished 5-15, missing the Class M playoffs.
“Having her back is phenomenal,” the head coach said.
Last Monday night against the Hurricanes, Barker put away 27 points to start the season. She then topped herself against the Lancers on Thursday, helping the Blue Devils to secure the season’s first win. Barked scored a game-high 34 points against Eastern and was also 8-for-12 at the free throw line.
“It’s a great feeling to be back on the court,” Barker said. “Last year, it was really hard watching my team and now this year I get to be with them and share this winning feeling with them, it’s fantastic. It’s all I ever dreamed of.”