Plum's Manuppelli living up to expectations
Senior Zac Manuppelli had the most experience of anyone on the Mustangs varsity pitching staff.
He was expected to be the ace for the 2013 season before the campaign started, and the right-handed hurler hasn't disappointed head coach Carl Vollmer.
Manuppelli is 4-1 so far this season with only eight earned runs allowed in 30 1⁄3 innings pitched.
He has 44 strikeouts and only 13 walks.
Manuppelli's talents were on display in a big Section 3-AAAA encounter with Franklin Regional last week at Haymaker Park.
Both teams came in 3-1 in section with both having suffered setbacks to section leader Pittsburgh Central Catholic.
Against a veteran Panthers lineup, Manuppelli gave up only one hit, and the run Franklin Regional scored in the third inning was unearned.
“(Coming into the game) we worked on inside fastballs, curve balls and change ups,” Manuppelli said. “It helped, and I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes.”
Manuppelli struck out four and walked five, but none of the walks came around to score.
“I wasn't happy with the walks, but I was able to get ground balls after that and have guys make plays,” he said. “My team behind me is great. I love rolling ground balls and knowing they will make the play behind me. The outfield was all over the place making plays.”
Plum gave Manuppelli more than enough offense in the 8-1 victory.
“Franklin Regional is always a tough team,” Manuppelli said. “They are one of the toughest teams in the section. It was nice to get the win against them.”
Manuppelli was able to bounce back from his only loss of the season. He gave up 10 hits and six earned runs in 5 2⁄3 innings in a 13-7 Plum loss to Pittsburgh Central Catholic on April 12.
“I put that one behind me as soon as I got taken out,” Manuppelli said. “I focused on the future.”
Vollmer was impressed with Manuppelli's bounce-back performance against the Panthers.
“Zac threw all his pitches for strikes, and that was the key,” Vollmer said.
“He had a plan, and he executed it. That's what he is capable of doing consistently.”
Off to a flying start
Plum freshman Alex Kiriloff has made an impact on the pitching mound and at the plate in his first varsity season.
He is one of the top hitters for the Mustangs, and he showed some clutch hitting against Franklin Regional.
Plum scored six runs in the fourth inning to break open a 1-1 game. With two runs already in and with the bases loaded and two outs, Kiriloff stepped to the plate and crushed a full-count pitch to center field.
The hit cleared the bases and gave the Mustangs more breathing room.
“I felt great at the plate and wanted to get my timing down each at bat. I just have to stay confident, get ready for the games and be ready for every day,” Kiriloff said.
“Alex is an exciting player,” Vollmer said. “He is far beyond his years in terms of baseball maturity. He made an adjustment as a hitter, and the results speak for themselves.”
Kiriloff added a sacrifice-fly RBI in the sixth.
“You can't ask for anything more,” Manuppelli said.
“He comes in and hits the ball. He gets big hits and plays great defense at first base.”
Kiriloff showed his reliability on the mound in a 10-2 win over Gateway on April 11, as he pitched six innings and gave up four hits and one walk while striking out 13.
Mustangs top FR
Plum's big fourth inning against Franklin Regional got started with a single from junior Nick Stotler, but five straight bunts — including two bunt singles — sparked the rally.
“I told the guys that it is Plum baseball,” Vollmer said. “That is what I envision — the bunting, the running, the good defense and good pitching — to put pressure on the other team. That's what we want to be known for. We want to make other teams think and make plays.”
Plum finished the game with seven hits. Senior Andrew Dawson had two of the hits, and Stotler also had two singles.
Senior Austin O'Block took three for the team, as he was hit with a pitch three times. One brought home a run
He led off the game by drawing a walk and coming around to score on an error.
Freshman Ethan Winesburgh, Vollmer said, has played well and has earned more playing time.
He started in left against Franklin Regional, and at the plate, he laid down a pair of sacrifice bunts to help the cause.
“It's really nice to see another young kid contributing,” Vollmer said.
The win was Plum's 12th in a row against Franklin Regional since 2006.
“They are a good team and a good program,” Vollmer said. “It's a big game for both teams. There was a little tension through the competitiveness of the game. Through the intensity, it becomes emotional.”
Plum, which started the week 10-2 overall after a 14-2 triumph over Woodland Hills on Saturday, was slated to play Baldwin in section action Wednesday. The game was to be played past the deadline for this week's edition.
Plum hosts Gateway on Friday at 4 p.m. and visits Pittsburgh Central Catholic on Monday.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.