Plum baseball ends season with tough loss to North Allegheny
The Plum varsity baseball team cleared one hurdle in the WPIAL Quad-A playoffs this year when it took down Shaler in the first round to snap a six-game playoff losing streak dating back to 2008.
The streak also included four straight losses in the first round.
Mustangs head coach Carl Vollmer said he was pleased with the effort against the Titans, which included strong defense, solid pitching from senior ace Zac Manuppelli and some timely hitting.
But Vollmer knew that the win over Shaler meant another opportunity two days later against No. 2 seed North Allegheny.
When the dust settled against the Tigers, Plum looked back and saw it had its chances to move on. Vollmer said North Allegheny made the plays it needed to in the 5-0 win.
“I don't think the score is indicative of the way the game went,” Vollmer said after last week's loss. “They were able to pull away at the end. But our guys fought hard, and I'm proud of them.”
Plum didn't score after loading the bases with no outs in the second, and it had a runner on third with one out in the third.
The Mustangs also got runners to third in the fourth and fifth innings but were unable to get them home.
“We put ourselves in good position in a couple of innings. We had opportunities and just couldn't come through,” Vollmer said. “But (North Allegheny starter Mark Machi) is one of the best pitchers in the league. His stats prove that.”
North Allegheny advanced in the playoffs and were scheduled to face Hempfield in the semifinals Tuesday.
The game was to be played past the deadline for this week's edition.
The Tigers led Plum 1-0 until they plated a run in the fifth, one in the sixth and two more in the seventh.
The No. 10-seeded Mustangs concluded their season 15-7 overall. They suffered losses in five of their final seven games as they faced one of the WPIAL's toughest schedules down the stretch.
Plum dropped hotly contested Section 3 matchups against rivals Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 3-1, and Franklin Regional, 2-0, before falling to North Allegheny and playoff top seed Seneca Valley to close out the regular season.
But the tough end to the regular season didn't deter the Mustangs from taking down the No. 7-seeded Titans, 2-1, in the first round, as junior Nick Stotler drove in both runs.
Vollmer said a lot of the credit for his team's largely successful season and playoff-game victory goes to the play of the seniors, which included Manuppelli, fellow pitcher David Cross, catcher/third baseman Tyler Podvasnik, utility infielder Mark Russo, outfielders Austin O'Block and Andrew Dawson, and reserves Kyle Dawson and Matt Zezza.
Manuppelli, who finished 4-3 this season with 64 strikeouts and a 3.86 ERA in 49 innings, has been selected to the Quad-A team for the WPIAL All-Star doubleheader on June 9 at Burkett Field in Robinson Township.
Over the past three seasons, the Mustangs have compiled a 42-18 overall record.
Vollmer said that as much as he will miss this year's seniors, he is excited and encouraged to continue working with the returning talent.
Freshman Alex Kiriloff lived up to preseason predictions of success, as he was a big threat at the plate and a solid choice to toe the pitching rubber.
He was a tough-luck loser after pitching six strong innings in the section finale against Franklin Regional, and he also went six innings and gave up two earned runs against the Tigers in the playoff game last week.
Fellow freshman Ethan Winesburgh wasn't on the varsity roster at the start of the season, but, Vollmer said, he worked hard and eventually gained a spot in the starting lineup.
Injuries affected the Mustangs down the stretch.
Junior second baseman Mike Maleski, one of the hitting stars for Plum in the first half of the season, missed the stretch run with a lower leg injury.
He was on crutches for both playoff games.
Sophomore infielder and pitcher Brian Albert also battled through injury.
He wasn't able to bat for about two weeks and couldn't pitch, but he still contributed as a pinch runner.
Players such as catcher Eric Bellasario and junior Zach Sansonetti also will be back.
“I'm proud of the guys, and I told them after the (North Allegheny) game that I am proud to be their coach,” Vollmer said.
“I wish all the seniors well. It's a great group. We have some really good kids leaving the program. At the same time, we have some really good kids moving up in the program. We'll take another shot next year, and I think we will be in a good position to do it.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at email@example.com.