Penn-Trafford earns spot in PIAA baseball playoffs with win over rival Plum

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Wednesday, May 31, 2023 | 10:09 PM


The first two meetings between baseball section rivals Plum and Penn-Trafford were close and low-scoring.

Each won on their home field.

The rubber matchup between the Mustangs and Warriors on Wednesday at Washington & Jefferson’s Ross Memorial Park was expected to be a similar type of contest, and it was.

In a battle for third place in WPIAL Class 5A and a spot in the PIAA playoffs, Penn-Trafford scored three times in the fourth inning. Those runs held up in a 3-1 victory.

“We put our nose back to the grind after the (semifinal) loss to Bethel,” Penn-Trafford coach Lou Cortazzo said.

“We knew this was going to be a dogfight like the first two games were. It’s a section rivalry, and it gets pretty vocal all the time. We made some mistakes, but we did enough and put the ball in play and put pressure on them. That’s what we needed to do to win.”

Penn-Trafford returns to the state playoffs for the first time since 2019, when it finished second in WPIAL Class 6A to Pine-Richland. The Warriors (15-6-1) will take on District 6 champion Central Mountain in the PIAA first round Monday at a site and time to be determined.

“This is a really special feeling because this is a good group of kids,” Cortazzo said.

“They’ve worked hard all year. We always focus one game at a time. We started with winning the section, and then we focused on winning the WPIAL. We fell short of that, but we regrouped, and now we want to make a run in the state tournament.”

Wednesday’s game was hotly contested with close plays throughout. With the rivalry already hot, tempers flared somewhat after the game. Some players for each team had to be restrained.

Cortazzo and Plum coach Carl Vollmer met to shake hands as the players from each team walked to their respective postgame huddles.

The Mustangs, who started 3-6, concluded their season at 14-9. They were in the consolation game after a 2-0 setback to eventual WPIAL champion Shaler in last week’s semifinals.

Plum sought its first trip to states since 2016, when it finished as the WPIAL 4A runner-up.

“This is a rivalry and a big rivalry. Our kids know them very well, and their kids know us very well,” Vollmer said.

“We knew it was going to be a heated and contentious game. We knew that based on the first two meetings, that it was also going to be close battle.

“We didn’t talk too much about the game after the game. We just talked about the seniors and how much of an impact they had on the team and how we came back after a tough start and won a section title and were playing for a chance to go to states. I think we could compete with anybody, and we showed that. I thought we had a team that was capable of making a run in the state playoffs.”

Plum took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third as No. 9 hitter Nick Lamia singled home courtesy runner Ian Wong from second base.

Mustangs catcher Carson Svidron had reached on a fielder’s choice. Wong came on to run and stole second to set up the run-scoring play.

Cortazzo came out to question the safe call on Wong’s stolen base. After a couple of consultations involving the umpires, the safe call stood.

Plum had a strong chance to add to its lead in the top of the fourth as shortstop Caden Norcutt bounced a ball past Penn-Trafford third baseman Peyton Bigler for a double with one out.

However, a Colin Watson grounder to short and throw from P-T shortstop Brayden Stone to third caught Norcutt in a rundown. The tag was made for the second out. A flyout ended the threat.

Penn-Trafford broke through in the bottom of the fourth, drawing three consecutive walks off Plum pitcher Brady Dojonovic with no outs.

The Warriors then tied the score as Dojonovic was called for a balk and took the lead when Brody Hoffman, the second P-T batter to walk, beat out a throw to home on a squeeze bunt back to Dojonovic off the bat of Chuck Fontana.

Penn-Trafford made it 3-1 on a single from Bigler that scored Carmen Metcalfe.

Plum designated hitter Jack Anderson led off the top of the fifth with a single. He then moved to third on a fielding error. But Svidron lined out to Stone, who threw to third to double up Anderson for the second out. The Mustangs ended up not scoring in the inning.

Senior Nolan Marasti pitched the first six innings for Penn-Trafford and got the win. He gave up three hits and one earned run while striking out two and walking one.

“I know coming into a game that I just have to throw strikes,” Marasti said. “If they hit the ball, I know I have a great defense behind me to make plays. Any time the ball is hit, I expect it to be fielded or caught. I have so much confidence in my defense. It’s just an awesome feeling to be able to pitch with confidence.”

Senior Dylan Grabowski, who started the game at second, came on to work the seventh. He gave up a walk to start the inning but then retired three in a row to get the save.

Dojonovic went five innings for Plum. He scattered four hits, walked four and struck out six.

Grabowski tripled in the fifth. He joined Norcutt as the only players to record extra-base hits.

“We’re really excited to get this win and be going to states coming off the tough loss to Bethel,” Marasti said.

“It took a couple of days to let that feeling fade away. But to come out here and win is huge. We now have a lot of momentum heading to states.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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