Plum softball hopes early success continues through remainder of season

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Friday, April 13, 2018 | 11:00 PM


Plum coach Jim McGrath said he liked what he saw from his team in early-season workouts.

But with so much time spent in the gym because of the bad weather last month and the first few days of this month, he was eager to see what his players would take with them to the field when the games started to come fast and furious.

So far, so good for the Mustangs as they went 5-1 in their first five games, including 3-1 in Section 1-5A.

“I kept preaching to them that while they were inside, so was everyone else,” McGrath said. “It was the time where the girls needed to work on their skills, all their techniques and all their mechanics because we needed to work on other things like plays and communication once we got outside and got on the field.”

McGrath said the team understood that with the schedule becoming more compact, the early practice opportunities became even more crucial.

“Some of the drills probably got a little boring and repetitive, but they knew there were learning some important things,” McGrath said.

Plum set the table for section play with a 5-4 victory over Shaler in the opener March 26.

The Mustangs then kicked off their section schedule with another close one, a 5-4 triumph against Greensburg Salem in the home opener April 5.

An 8-2 loss to Penn-Trafford the next day slowed Plum's momentum, but it regained it last week with a 3-2 win over Armstrong and a 16-3, five-inning rout of Woodland Hills.

The Mustangs scored nine times in the second inning against the Wolverines and never looked back. Sophomore Mackenzie Lake tripled twice and drove in two runs, senior Sidney Young and junior Gabrielle Fischetti tallied three and two RBIs, respectively, and sophomore Lindsey Suprano recorded a pair of hits.

Melanie Mienke, a freshman, struck out 10 to earn the win in her first start of her varsity career.

Junior Abbey Froehlich, in her third year as the starting pitcher, started the season 3-1 with a 2.80 ERA, 17 strikeouts and eight walks in 27 23 innings of work.

“Abbey has really matured over the past three years as a starter, and we are really seeing that experience in games so far,” McGrath said.

“She is more consistent. She's mixing a number of different pitches really well.”

McGrath said a deep pitching staff, which also includes freshman Makinzie DeRiggi, will be an advantage as the schedule continues to be busy.

Lake led the way offensively with a .357 batting average (5 for 14) through five games with a double, the two triples and six RBIs.

The six RBIs led the team, followed by five from Young and four from Fischetti.

Fischetti hit a home run, collected four RBIs and batted .333 (4 for 12) in five games to start the season. That gave her a team-best 10 home runs and 47 RBIs since the start of the 2016 season.

Freshman Francesca Beighley, a starter at second base, is hitting above .300.

McGrath said the transition to varsity has gone as well as could be expected for the freshmen in the lineup. That includes starting third baseman Jillian Durst.

The first game this season for Plum against section rival Franklin Regional was set for last Friday afternoon, past the deadline for this week's edition.

The Mustangs also were to host Kiski Area on Saturday and take on Gateway on Monday and Kiski Area again Tuesday.

Plum is scheduled to travel to Penn-Trafford on Thursday for a 4:15 p.m. start and play a nonsection game at Pine-Richland on Friday.

Franklin Regional and Penn-Trafford started 4-0 in the section with Plum right on their heels.

The Panthers, Warriors and Mustangs are gunning for return trips to the playoffs after representing the section in the postseason last year.

“We've started well, but we have to keep our focus if we are going to reach our goals,” McGrath said.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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