Baserunning gaffes hurt Plum
Plum doesn't mind being called a small-ball team, but there's one small problem: The Mustangs can't play that style if they don't execute on the base paths.
“We have to clean up our base-running,” Plum coach Carl Vollmer said after his team dropped a 2-0 decision to visiting Franklin Regional on Friday. “We're making too many bad decisions. The last two games, we've had good pitching performances but have done nothing with them.”
Plum, which came into the game ranked No. 4 in Class AAAA, slipped to 14-4 overall and 7-3 in Section 3. Chances for a co-section title have all but slipped away, and the Mustangs now likely need to win a few nonsection games to salvage a respectable seed in the WPIAL playoffs.
Shut out for the first time this season, the Mustangs left 10 runners stranded despite out-hitting Franklin Regional (14-3, 8-2), 7-4, while wasting a strong effort by pitcher Alex Kiriloff.
The Mustangs' starter took a no-hit bid into the sixth, but Patrick Kukalis singled to center to open the inning and later scored on Brandon Nania's sacrifice fly to break a scoreless tie and take a 1-0 lead.
“Our kids did a phenominal job in key situations today,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said. “With the bunts, it came down to execution. The last time, we didn't execute, and we didn't want a repeat of that.”
Plum did get out of bases-loaded jams in the first and seventh innings but failed to string together offense in between because of the base-running issues.
Two Plum sacrifice attempts went awry. In the second, Will Kirkpatrick doubled to right, but Tyler Podvasnik's bunt went back to Panthers pitcher Nick DiDiano, who threw to third to get Kirkpatrick.
In the fourth, Ethan Winesburg and Kirkpatrick singled, but Podvasnik's bunt again went to DiDiano, who turned and fired to third for the out.
Plum had success bunting against the Panthers earlier in the season in an 8-1 win.
“We know their bunt schemes well,” Vollmer said. “Their defense knew exactly what was coming; we just didn't execute.”
Plum loaded the bases in the third after singles by Austin O'Block and Kiriloff, but Nick Stotler's looper to short went for a double play.
The Panthers added an insurance run in the seventh thanks to a bases-loaded walk. With two outs, Colin Jonov singled to put two runners on, and Danny McGrath and Kukalis each walked to push home John Bondi for a 2-0 lead.
That chased Kiriloff, and reliever David Cross struck out Nick Vento with the bases full.
After Andrew Dawson walked and Austin O'Block singled for Plum in the seventh, Mike Maleski flew to right. The relay throw caught O'Block in a rundown for a game-ending double play.
DiDiano pitched a complete game for the Panthers, who have won six straight. They've averaged 10.3 runs per game during that stretch, including a 17-16 win over Central Catholic.
This time, just two were enough.
“We'll take wins as we can get them,” Saddler said.