Plum baseball armed for success

Sunday, March 18, 2018 | 11:18 PM

Plum baseball coach Carl Vollmer believes his team has the right recipe to contend for a WPIAL baseball championship this spring.

And it's no surprise what the former Pitt pitcher considers the top ingredient.

“Based on my experience, I believe pitching is critical,” said Vollmer, entering his 14th season with the Mustangs. “You hear that at all levels of baseball, and high school baseball is no different. If you look at past WPIAL champions, by and large the team with the best pitching staff always has a chance to compete and win on any given day.

“I think pitching trumps everything when it comes down to being competitive.”

And when looking at his own deck, Vollmer sees a trump card of a deep pitching staff led by an ace.

Senior Ryan Kircher, a Kent State recruit and “professional prospect,” leads the way. The lefthander started in the PIAA Class AAAA championship game as a sophomore and pitched a strong game in Plum's 2-0 loss to eventual WPIAL champion Pine-Richland in last season's WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinals.

Vollmer called Kircher an “unflappable, even-keeled” pitcher, which helps his success.

More than that, several pitchers will fill in behind Kircher to give Plum depth — a necessity in high school baseball given the way unpredictable weather can cause havoc with schedules each spring. Vollmer said he has 11 players capable of pitching.

Senior Will Rumcik, also a member of the 2016 team that made it to the WPIAL and PIAA championship games, and senior Jackson Rogers, a La Roche recruit, will take the top slots behind Kircher.

Other contenders include senior Logan Simmons, a Cal (Pa.) recruit, juniors Gino Marra, Brody Simmons and more, including a handful who had success at the junior varsity level.

“Having depth is important,” Vollmer said. “It's something I've always been very aware of and cognizant of, not to overuse guys. It's nice to have a variety of guys. They all have different strengths, and we'll use them all.”

While Plum lost several contributors from last season's WPIAL quarterfinal team, some key pieces return — though some will assume new places in the Mustangs' lineup.

Senior Tanner Froehlich, a Seton Hill recruit, will slide from first base to catcher and is expected to bat in the middle of the lineup. IUP recruit Markus Cestra returns in the infield, and Rumcik will play in the outfield.

Kircher, senior Pete Zullo and junior Evan Sante have the potential to produce runs, Vollmer said, and Dom Carlisano can fill a super-utility role. Rogers is a strong defender at shortstop.

“I'm cautiously optimistic,” Vollmer said. “I think that we have depth in our lineup offensively. We have a few spots that are a little more solidified, some spots that are still up in the air and guys are going to continue to work for.

“It's a 20-game season. It's a relatively short season. Fortunately, we have some depth and options, so we're going to go with who's hot at the moment. One of the qualities we do have is that depth so if someone is struggling, we can move to somebody else. That competition is hopefully going to drive us to be very good.”

Plum will have to be in what Vollmer calls a “tremendously tough” Section 2-6A with Connellsville, Hempfield, Norwin, Penn Hills and Penn-Trafford.

But the Mustangs have plenty of tradition they can rely on, having advanced to at least the WPIAL quarterfinals each of the past five seasons.

“I believe we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” Vollmer said. “I don't think people expect much out of us. Why, I'm not sure, but for whatever reason people may believe we may not be as strong as we have been.

“We're confident, but we also understand it's a day-to-day, constant self-evaluation and a necessary work ethic to get to where we want to go.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.


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