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Plum earns bounce-back win against section newcomer

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

On April 3, the Plum varsity baseball team suffered its first loss of the season — a 10-8 nonsection setback to Shaler — after starting out 4-0.

Vollmer said he wanted his squad to learn from that loss, and the Mustangs were able to rebound with three straight wins, including a pair of 10-2 triumphs over Baldwin and Gateway in Section 3-AAAA play.

Plum faced another challenge after coming up short in a 13-7 loss to section rival Pittsburgh Central Catholic on Friday.

And, like the aftermath of the first loss, Plum was able to bounced back with a key victory.

The Mustangs used timely hitting and the pitching of junior Dante Palmieri to fuel a 4-1 win Monday over new section opponent McKeesport at Plum High School.

“We played pretty clean defense most of the day,” Vollmer said.

“That limits the number of pitches our pitchers have to throw, and it makes their job easier.

“We didn't play well in a couple phases of the game, (against Central Catholic), but we had our opportunities. We just came up a little bit short. Central Catholic is a very good baseball team. We just have to perform at a higher level when playing good baseball teams like that.”

With only 10 section games this season, victories such as the one over the Tigers on Monday are magnified.

Plum improved to 3-1 in the section and is scheduled to close out the first cycle of section play Thursday at 4 p.m. against Franklin Regional at Haymaker Park in Murrysville.

The Panthers also are 3-1 in section play.

Franklin Regional battled back and forth against Central Catholic on Monday, but the Vikings came away with a 9-8 victory.

The Panthers won a close one against McKeesport, 6-5, in their section opener before blowing out Baldwin, 15-3, and handling Gateway, 10-0, on Friday.

“We talk about winning and how it isn't easy,” Vollmer said.

“No one is going to hand you anything, There's always going to be bumps in the road. That's what we talked about in practice after the Central Catholic game. We have to grind through it and continue to work hard. The sign of a good team is being able to learn from mistakes and progress. I think we are on that path.”

With the pitching staff a little bit shorthanded Monday because of illness and injury, Vollmer said, Palmieri got the start.

He went six innings and surrendered three hits and two walks while striking out three.

“We knew Dante was very capable of that,” Vollmer said. “He came in throwing strikes and changing speeds on his pitches. He more than kept us in the game.”

Senior David Cross came on in the seventh to finish the game for the Mustangs.

He struck out two and gave up one run, which was unearned.

Junior Eric Bellasario got the start behind the plate for Plum, and he came through at the plate with a bat in his hand.

He connected on a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the fourth to give the Mustangs some breathing room with a 3-0 lead.

Junior Nick Stotler went 2 for 3, and senior Austin O'Block singled and brought a run home with a sacrifice fly.

Plum was deadly on the base paths. The Mustangs stole seven bases, and O'Block had three of those steals.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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