Experienced Plum softball team eager for outside action

Sunday, March 18, 2018 | 10:57 PM

The Plum softball team looked pretty good in early practices this March, at least in coach Jim McGrath's eyes.

There's just one problem.

“Everybody looks good in the gym,” McGrath said.

Inclement weather is keeping Plum indoors so far, a potential problem when one considers real games start later this week. McGrath is finding it difficult to evaluate some players given the indoor conditions.

“The balls bounce true, and you're not hitting long fly balls,” he said. “You're just doing little drills.”

With just over half the starting lineup returning from a team that reached the WPIAL quarterfinals after tying for third place in a competitive Section 1-5A, McGrath at least has some idea of what is there.

And what is that? Plum's roster includes just one senior in outfielder Sidney Young, but the Mustangs' underclassmen have plenty of experience.

“We had three freshmen that really stepped up their games (last season), and we're looking for more out of them this year as sophomores, being more experienced, more mature,” McGrath said. “I know our players that are juniors, they've matured and gotten a lot better over the summer. We're looking for a lot of good things to happen this year.”

McGrath pronounced the infield as “pretty much set” with junior catcher Gabrielle Fischetti, sophomore first baseman Alyssa Schofield, freshman second baseman Francesca Beighley, sophomore shortstop Mackenzie Lake and a pair of third basemen in freshman Hannah Blanford and junior Britney Shanter.

Lake was an all-section outfielder after batting .548 last season. Fischetti hit .441.

The up-in-the-air outfield tells a different story than the more locked-in infield, as McGrath said six players are competing for spots there.

That group includes Young, juniors Sidney Shanter and Olivia Wendell, sophomores Lindsey Suprano and Giovonna Tavella and freshman Jillian Durst.

“They can probably be interchangeable,” McGrath said. “We haven't seen anybody stand out yet that would be a permanent position at this point.”

Junior Abbey Froehlich returns to pitch, with freshman Melanie Mienke and Makinzie DeRiggi supplementing.

“Abbey's a nice pitcher,” McGrath said. “She's got some junk pitches. She throws a nice fastball, hits her spots. We're expecting a lot out of her.”

Plum qualified for the WPIAL playoffs in each of McGrath's nine seasons as coach, making a pair of quarterfinal appearances. He believes this group has the potential to win a section that includes returning playoff teams Franklin Regional, Kiski Area and Penn-Trafford, as well as Armstrong, Gateway, Greensburg Salem and Woodland Hills.

“From year to year, they get better every year,” McGrath said. “They get a little bit better. They get more mature. They get a little more serious. So yeah, we're looking for some good things from them.

“They want to go all the way, which is always a good thing. Whether we'll reach that goal or not, that's another question.”

One the Mustangs must answer outside the gym.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.


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