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Slumping Plum baseball enters WPIAL playoffs from different perspective

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Michael Love | Plum Advance Leader
Senior Austin O’Block is hoping his final WPIAL playoff experience lasts beyond the first round.

Plum varsity head baseball coach Carl Vollmer said his team heads into the WPIAL playoffs under different terms this year.

“We've typically been the higher seed in most of these recent playoff games,” Vollmer said.

Plum, who suffered a 7-3 nonsection loss to Seneca Valley on Monday, finished third in Section 3-AAAA behind Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Franklin Regional.

“We're coming at it from a different angle, not one we would prefer,” Vollmer said. “But we know what it's like to be in the playoffs. We will work on a few things to help us accomplish our playoff goals.”

The Mustangs, 14-6 overall, lost four of their final five regular season games, including close 3-1 and 2-0 setbacks to Central Catholic and Franklin Regional, respectively, last week.

Their other loss was to North Allegheny, 12-2, on Saturday.

“The kids know they have faced the top teams the past week or two in Central Catholic, North Allegheny, Franklin Regional and Seneca Valley,” Vollmer said.

“We know what we're up against and what we have to prepare for. Seneca Valley's most likely going to be the No. 1 seed. Central Catholic will be a top three seed. North Allegheny will most likely be a top three or four seed, and Franklin Regional will be a fairly high seed also. Nothing will surprise us. We're tested, and we're ready.”

The Mustangs players, especially the team's eight seniors, have had to deal with WPIAL first-round playoff exits the past four years.

“We talked about that,” Vollmer said. “It's a goal of ours to snap that streak. With a one-and-done format, anything can happen. We saw that the past couple of seasons. We have to go in with the confidence we can play with any team we're up against.”

Vollmer said the pitching has been solid to above average in recent games, but defense, base running and hitting haven't been up to par.

He said some of his key players battled injuries down the stretch in the regular season.

Junior second baseman Mike Maleski, one of the team's top hitters, was out of the lineup against Seneca Valley on Monday.

Sophomore Brian Albert, a key hitter and pitcher for the Mustangs, has missed an extended period of time, and Vollmer said he will continue to be out.

Freshman Alex Kiriloff, who has enjoyed a breakout season at the plate, on the mound and at first base, also has been playing through an injury, Vollmer said.

The playoff pairings are expected to be released Friday with the first games to be played Monday and Tuesday.

Plum will scrimmage Class AAA power South Park on Friday at 4 p.m. at Plum High School.

The Eagles (20-0) are one of only two undefeated baseball teams in the WPIAL's four classifications.

“Preparation is critical. It's not just about playing well in the game, but it's about preparing to play well,” Vollmer said.

“South Park is having a tremendous season, and it will be great to match up against the top team in AAA.”

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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