George Guido: Plum baseball, softball fields getting turf upgrade

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Saturday, March 6, 2021 | 10:24 AM


Plum High School baseball has certainly come a long way since the sport was played in the front yard of the school with outfielders running up a hill to catch a fly ball.

The school is in the process of installing artificial turf on both the baseball and softball fields in the rear of the school.

The project has fallen behind because of the harsh winter weather, but school officials feel completion will be sometime during the upcoming season. The Mustangs baseball and softball teams could have strictly road games early on.

The overall project is part of a $5 million facilities upgrade initiated by the school district in 2019. The work is not being done solely for athletics, but other facets of the school district’s facilities have benefited such as new roofing, purchasing buses and auditorium upgrades.

Funding for the projects include draining the remaining $3.6 million from a $10 million 2014 bond originally taken out to build the new Regency Park Elementary School and bond refinancing.

Besides the baseball and softball overhauls, Plum added new, futuristic-looking light standards for those two fields and the football field. Instead of the traditional vertical light clusters, Plum now has horizontal limbs with LED lights.

Plum athletic director Josh Shoop indicated that some, but not all, Mustangs baseball and softball games could be under the lights.

The artificial turf work is being done by Act Global, a company that also donated $32,000 to the school district for the project. Spitzer Toyota also gifted the school district $30,000 and Spitzer general manager Robert Thomasson III complimented the school district on its effort to sort its way through the pandemic.

Act Global CEO and founder John Baize also had some positive words for students’ achievements at Plum.

Playoffs continue

This year’s WPIAL basketball tournament is all about “the first times evers” and “the last time sinces.”

For instance, the Knoch girls are in the WPIAL semifinals for the first time in school history, thanks to Friday’s thrilling, 51-45 victory over Blackhawk.

Derry’s boys won a playoff game for the first time in that school’s 65-year history, and Ligonier Valley won a WPIAL playoff game for the first time since 1945. World War II was in its final stages when the Mounties, as Ligonier was called then, defeated Export and South Union before losing in the semifinals to Etna.

Leechburg’s boys are in the semifinals for just the third time in school history. The Blue Devils won it all in 2007 and were in the semis in 1966 before losing to Coraopolis.

This is the first time Fox Chapel is in the boys semifinals in the 6A classification. The Foxes were a 2015 semifinalist when 4A was the largest enrollment class.

But back to Knoch. The Knights prepped for the playoffs with a 50-46 win against a top-notch Hampton program to conclude the regular season.

The Knights live and die by the 3-point shot. Knoch was 1 of 8 from behind the arc to start the game. But by halftime, Knoch had seven 3-pointers and two 2-pointers en route to a 29-24 halftime lead.

Nina Shaw led the way with five 3-pointers and 21 points overall. The sophomore guard was sidelined for part of the fourth quarter as the game intensified.

Coach Chris Andreassi praised the efforts of freshman C.C. Kosecki for some quality minutes off the bench as senior Madelyn Boyer took over Shaw’s point guard duties.

“I get leg cramps sometimes, so I had to stretch it out,” Shaw said after the game.

“Her minutes against Hampton and tonight have been flawless,” Andreassi said of Kosecki after Friday’s game.

But the bottom line to this is Knoch being able to beat the Hamptons and Blackhawks of the scholastic world.

Blackhawk’s girls have won four WPIAL and two PIAA titles in the past. The Cougars have won 821 games since the school opened in 1973. The school has made the WPIAL playoffs 33 times, including the last 14.

Andreassi was concerned about playing a team of Blackhawk’s caliber.

“Blackhawk’s a been-there, done that type of team, all those championships, they’re always there and we’re not,” Andreassi said.

Knoch will take on No. 1 seeded Beaver on Tuesday.

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