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Plum baseball ends playoff drought with win over Shaler

| Tuesday, May 14, 2013,
Bill Shirley | For the Valley News Dispatch
Plum's Nick Stotler applies the tag to Shaler's Alec McElroy at second base during WPIAL playoff action Monday, May 13, 2013, at Fox Chapel High School.

Plum senior Zac Manuppelli picked a great time for one of his top career performances.

With scouts from several colleges watching, Manuppelli threw a two-hitter as the Mustangs stopped Shaler, 2-1, in a Class AAAA first-round playoff game Monday at Fox Chapel.

The right-hander, also named to the WPIAL all-star game Monday, struck out 10, including six in the last two innings.

“The first couple innings, I didn't feel so great,” Manuppelli said. “My fastball wasn't in command early, but I felt better in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings with my fastball. My curve was working throughout the game.”

Added Mustangs coach Carl Vollmer: “It was truly an intense battle from the first pitch of the game to the last. Zac put us on his back and carried us; he truly did. We're going to truly enjoy this one.”

Plum (15-6) will play North Allegheny in the quarterfinals Wednesday at a time and site to be determined. Shaler finished 11-10.

It was the Mustangs' first playoff victory since a 2008 WPIAL semifinal win over Canon-McMillan. Since then, Plum had lost the 2008 finals, the PIAA opener that same year and then four consecutive first-round games.

“It's a good win for our program,” Vollmer said. “We needed this one.”

The key play Monday was Mustangs senior Andrew Dawson surviving a rundown.

With the score tied, 1-1, in the bottom of the fifth, Dawson was at second with one out. Zack Sansonetti hit a comebacker to Shaler pitcher Jake Potock, who noticed Dawson was halfway to third. Dawson retreated briefly toward second but headed for third, where he eluded a tag by Potock about 10 feet from third base.

“I didn't think I was tagged, but he had the ball for a while,” Dawson said. “It was close; I know that. I slid on the inside of the bag so he couldn't get me.”

Added Vollmer: “That was a real big play. You had a big kid on the mound who has range. Andrew got caught in a bad situation, but it's all hustle and effort. He was able to make a great slide and avoid the tag.”

After Alex Kiriloff was intentionally walked, Nick Stotler hit into a force play at second as Dawson scooted home. Manuppelli then struck out the next five Shaler batters.

Defensively, Plum catcher Eric Bellisario threw out three runners, and ManupelliWith two outs in the seventh, Jim Hughes laced a single to left.

But Manuppelli struck out Noah Hernandez to end the game.

Plum scored in the bottom of the first when Austin O'Block walked and scored on Stotler's single.

In the Shaler third, Justin Defide walked, and Justin Mazza's single and throwing error scored pinch runner Mike Gazica.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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