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Plum softball hopes to put string of first-round playoff exits to rest

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The second season for softball almost is here.

The WPIAL playoff pairings are scheduled to be released Thursday, and the Mustangs again are in the mix in Quad-A after finishing second (10-2) to McKeesport (12-0) in Section 2 race.

Mustangs head coach Jim McGrath said his team will be ready for whatever challenge will present itself in the first round, which is slated to begin as early as Monday.

“The girls are very focused,” McGrath said.

McGrath said he isn't sure when the last time a Plum softball team advanced past the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

The Mustangs are in the playoffs for the fifth year in a row, and they have tasted defeat in the first round each year by a combined score of 38-8.

McGrath said the team, especially seniors Amy Flynn, Annie Workman, Lyndi Gareis and Savannah Zummo, want to change that in a season that began with a 17-0 triumph over Penn Hills on the new high school field.

“It's always been a goal of the girls to get past the first round of the playoffs,” McGrath said.

“We weren't able to get the section title like we wanted, so they are excited to move on to the playoff goal in front of them.”

McGrath said it is important to stay in game shape as the playoffs approach.

The Mustangs are in the midst of a series of four nonsection games that follow the April 30th section finale against Gateway.

Plum is slated to play at Butler on Thursday at 4 p.m.

The Mustangs were scheduled to face Serra Catholic on Tuesday in a game that was to be played past the deadline for this week's edition.

The Eagles finished 9-5 in their section — third place behind Class A powers Carmichaels and Frazier — and Serra began this week 10-5 overall.

“Those games really help us get ready for the playoffs as far as working on a number of things with our hitting, pitching and fielding against good competition,” McGrath said.

Plum edged Hampton, 3-2, on Monday in a game at Plum High School.

Stella Pratt, Jordan Seneca and Melissa LeClair each knocked in a run, as the Mustangs scored all three of their runs in the third inning.

Plum finished with eight hits in the win, and junior Karlie Serakowski collected a double.

Sophomore Jess Bitsura earned the win in the pitching circle, and she improved to 6-1 on the season.

The Talbots qualified for the AAA playoffs in a competitive Section 5.

The Plum bats were stymied in a 4-0 home loss to Shaler on Friday.

“We lost 4-0, but two outfield errors cost us four runs,” McGrath said.

“Shaler has always been a good team, and for us to play at that level is a good sign. We do have to cut down on mistakes if we are going to be successful in the playoffs.”

Shaler finished second to North Allegheny in Section 3-AAAA.

McGrath said Gareis most likely will start the first playoff game in the circle, but Serakowski and Bitsura will be available to pitch.

Gareis began this week 4-2 with a 2.81 earned-run average in a team-best 42 13 innings of work.

Serakowski was 3-1.

“It's always nice to have pitching depth,” McGrath said.

Zummo, Plum's leadoff hitter, has been battling a shoulder injury, but McGrath said she will be able to hit.

Serakowski, McGrath said, will most likely fill in for Zummo in right field.

Seneca decides

After going through the recruiting process for a number of months and making several visits to colleges, Seneca made a verbal commitment last week to play softball and continue her education at St. Francis (Pa.) in Loretto.

Seneca made a visit to St. Francis a couple of weeks ago, and after finding out more about the program and the academic possibilities, she said she knew it was the place for her.

She said she will have a good shot of coming into the program and making an impact right away in the spring of 2015.

“I am really excited to be a part of the program and play with some of the current players who will still be there when I am a freshman,” Seneca said.

St. Francis finished its 2013 season 25-30 overall and 6-14 in the Northeast Conference.

The 25 wins are the most in a season since 2002.

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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