Fox Chapel baseball defeats Plum, forces 3-way tie atop section standings

Monday, May 8, 2023 | 9:33 PM

When half of a team’s starting lineup is underclassmen and its top two pitchers are sophomores, the future is bright.

However, for the Fox Chapel baseball team, the future is now.

The Foxes defeated visiting Plum, 5-2, on Monday afternoon to force a three-way tie for first place between Fox Chapel, Plum and Penn-Trafford heading into the final day of section play Tuesday.

Fox Chapel (12-6) and Plum (11-7) both have 8-3 section records heading into their rematch Tuesday.

The winner of that game is guaranteed a share of the Section 1-5A championship and will win it outright if Penn-Trafford (12-4, 8-3) loses at home to Franklin Regional.

“We replaced a lot of starters, only returning two or three starters,” Fox Chapel coach Jim Hastings said. “We have a lot of young players, not so much young but inexperienced players, and we knew it was going to take some time. We have a lot of great kids who love to compete, and they work hard and do what we ask them to do. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Leading the way was sophomore left-hander Jeremy Haigh, who entered the game with an ERA of 0.85. He pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits with one walk and six strikeouts to improve to 6-1 this season.

“Going out there, second inning, third inning, I had a little bit of control issues,” Haigh said. “Overall, my command was there, had most of my pitches going, bringing my best stuff. This game got us closer. Now it’s the next one that matters.”

Hastings was pleased his young pitcher beat Plum without his best stuff.

“He threw four pitches for strikes,” Hastings said. “He’s very consistent, and he was all around the zone. Because of the rain last week, this is the first time he pitched on three days’ rest, so I don’t think he was as sharp today as he’s been. I think that’s why his strikeouts were down a little bit, but Plum is such a good team and a really good program.”

The Mustangs struck first in the top of the fourth inning when senior Logan Kemmerer walked with one out. Senior Caden Norcutt singled, and after a fielder’s choice, junior Colin Watson singled home Kemmerer.

Fox Chapel tied the score in the bottom of the fourth when senior Zach Johnston walked, went to third base on a single by junior Mitchell Epstein, then scored on a throwing error when courtesy runner Matt Fugh stole second base.

Another Mustangs throwing error proved costly in a big four-run fifth inning for the Foxes.

Junior Benny DeMotte walked, and on senior Jack Resek’s sacrifice bunt, the ball was thrown into center field. Junior Troy Susnak walked to end Plum starter junior Eric Strussnig’s day on the mound.

Watson came in for Plum and struck out the first batter he faced, but freshman Joey Geller gave Fox Chapel the lead for good on a high chopping bounce out to shortstop Norcutt.

Insurance runs came when Johnston doubled home two runs and Epstein singled home another to make the score 5-1.

Plum would not go quietly in the seventh inning.

With one out, sophomore Daniel Macioce and Carson Svidron had back-to-back singles. One out later, senior Nick Lamia hit an RBI single to bring the tying run to the plate.

Sophomore left-hander Francesco Pistella came into the game for Fox Chapel and retired Plum junior Sean Franzi for the final out and the save.

Three Mustangs errors led to four unearned Foxes runs in the game.

“Give Haigh a lot of credit,” Plum coach Carl Vollmer said. “He was tough. He threw all of his pitches in any count. We scattered a few hits but never put anything together. We made a couple of mistakes that helped them create a big inning, but the reality is you’re not going to win many games scoring two runs.”

“We have to flush this one and move on to (Tuesday). We have one game to win the section, and we are looking forward to it.”

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