Plum Youth Legion team reflects on trip to state tournament
After his team’s loss in an elimination game at the Pennsylvania Youth Legion baseball tournament, Plum manager Bill Rumcik stood in front of his players and offered words he hoped would console his dejected group.
“They were really down, but I wanted to put (the season) into perspective for them,” Rumcik said.
“I wanted them to look at the big picture of the entire season. It’s not always about the end result. Ninety-nine percent of the time there’s only one happy team. Unfortunately, we came up short. But it was all about the ride and getting to regionals and states. We finished in the top eight at states out of 154 Junior Legion teams in Pennsylvania. By the end of (the postgame talk), they were in a much better mood.”
Plum, which finished its season 22-7-1, hoped to ride a wave of momentum built after a runner-up finish at the Western Regional.
But a 5-4 loss to eventual state champion Boyertown in its first game July 27 and a 9-5 defeat at the hands of Lower Macungie the next day brought a sudden end it its season.
Errors hurt the Junior Mustangs in both games. Of the 14 runs surrendered in the two contests, only four were earned.
“We felt we were the better team in both games,” Rumcik said. “It was frustrating for them. They understood that they just didn’t execute. But I think it’s a good learning experience for the ones coming back next year. So many things go into winning a state championship.”
Boyertown captured the state title with an extra-inning victory over Uniontown, Plum’s Westmoreland County league rival, in the championship game.
Plum finished its postseason run 8-5-1.
“Everyone came together and did their job. No one ever pointed fingers if anything went wrong,” pitcher/infielder Brady Dojonovic said. “It was a pretty fun season.”
Six of the 18 players on the roster — Christian Brown, Nick Chirumbolo, Alex Miller, David Westrick, Dylan Young and Jake George — will move up to Plum’s Senior Legion squad because of age-limit restrictions.
Brown, Chirumbolo and Miller, Rumcik said, were every-day starters.
“I thanked those guys and told them to keep their heads up, focus on varsity and JV baseball at Plum and keep battling,” Rumcik said.
Rumcik said he’s excited for the talent coming back and some younger players coming up next summer, and the expectations are there for another run to states.
“I saw the rosters for the teams at states, and a lot of them were 16-year-old heavy, especially in the pitchers,” Rumcik said. “I think we should be able to come back and compete well next year.”
Plum went 14-2 in the Westmoreland County league regular season with its only two losses coming at the hands of Monroeville.
The Junior Mustangs avenged those losses by winning two of three against Monroeville in their semifinal playoff series.
Plum and Uniontown shared the league title when their championship game ended tied 7-7 after eight innings. Darkness prevented the teams from continuing the game that night, and a coin flip was used to determine the No. 1 seed to the regional tournament.
Plum got the No. 1 seed. It lost its first regional game but responded with three wins in a row to clinch a spot at states. In two of those games, including the state-clinching victory over Uniontown, the Junior Mustangs rallied from five-run deficits.
“This was such a team effort all season,” Rumcik said. “Everyone contributed in some way.”
Eligible to return next season are Dojonovic, as well as Rocco Schneider Lochner, Anthony Carlisano, Jimmy Rumcik, Caden Norcutt, Nick Lamia, Silvio Ionadi, Justin Giarrusso, Frankie Macioce, Colin Solinski, Logan Kemmerer and Hayden Shelatz.
“With this season, everyone became a lot closer, and we had fun playing baseball,” coach Rumcik said. “We overcame some adversity. The kids really improved, not only as players but as people.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-856-7400 x8632, [email protected] or via Twitter .