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Plum players gain experience during fall baseball season

| Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, 10:30 p.m.

Plum was a win short of defending its Western Pennsylvania Fall Baseball League title, losing 3-2 to Central Catholic in the championship.

But outside of the loss in the finals, coach Carl Vollmer got what he was looking for out of the fall season.

Younger players got some reps in the field, pitchers got extra time on the mound and everyone took advantage of live at-bats before they head into winter workouts.

Plum also established a winning mentality heading into a spring season, where it has some high expectations. The Mustangs went 11-0-1 in the Stargell (B) Division and, combined with a pair of teams that played in the junior varsity league, the program had a total record of 33-4-2.

“We had around 55 kids participating in fall baseball, which says something about where our program is at right now,” Vollmer said. “Our two JV teams made the semifinals, and our varsity team made the finals, so it provided a nice foundation going into a season where we have some high hopes.”

Plum blitzed the Stargell (B) division, which consisted of Norwin, Gateway, Franklin Regional and Yough. The Mustangs outscored their opponents 108-24 in the regular season. Plum topped Norwin, 3-0, in the quarterfinals and was a 10-2 winner over South Park in the semifinals.

The Mustangs carried the success of previous teams in the program, which has been in the finals four times in the last five years.

Plum ace and Kent State recruit Ryan Kircher saw time on the mound in the fall, but when Kircher was away pitching at national events, several other pitchers got to work some quality innings.

Will Rumcik, Jackson Rogers, Gino Marra and Brody Simmons are expected to provide depth next spring and all contributed to Plum's gaudy pitching statistics during the WPFBL season.

“Rumcik will be a three-year starter returning for us,” Vollmer said. “Jackson Rogers ate up a lot of quality innings for us this fall and is a guy we are going to count on in the spring. We had a couple juniors (Marra and Simmons) set up for us. Marra should be a varsity pitcher for us next spring, and Simmons is another guy who should help us on the mound this coming season. He was a guy who we got to see a lot of this fall, and he had some good success.

“On any given weekend we could see a very good team or a team that wasn't as capable, but our pitching was excellent throughout the fall.”

Plum had a balanced attack offensively led by Markus Cestra, Tanner Froelich and Pete Zullo, who are all seniors.

“Offensively, I feel like the varsity guys that we have coming back gave us what we expected them to give us and some of the junior varsity guys showed that they are capable of competing at the varsity level,” Vollmer said.

Plum was an original member of the WPFBL when it was a six-team league and has seen the league grow over the past decade. Vollmer expects that the upward trend to continue.

“The evolution of fall baseball has been kind of crazy over the last 10 years,” Vollmer said. “We were one of the first teams in this league, and now there's close to 70 teams (35 varsity) in it. It's kind of a crazy pace. There are a lot of kids involved, and you're seeing more and more varsity coaching staffs from high schools getting involved. It's really great for the sport of baseball. If you're not participating in a fall sport, it's a good opportunity to get out and play instead of sitting around, and it gives the coaches a good opportunity to evaluate going into winter workouts.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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