Plum baseball looks to find success in move to Class 5A

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Saturday, March 20, 2021 | 10:01 AM


Two years ago, the Plum baseball team missed the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2005.

The Mustangs finished 8-12 and were fifth in Section 2-6A.

Plum hoped to get back in a postseason mindset last year, but covid concerns wiped out the 2020 season before it started.

But as veteran Mustangs coach Carl Vollmer now views the baseball landscape, he sees a Plum team ready to make a move back up the ladder and back into the playoffs.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had the opportunity to go out and fix it and get back to where we belong, which is as a WPIAL playoff contender,” Vollmer said.

“That is our primary focus, and I think this group is young and hungry and out to prove something. The desire to play and compete is there.”

Plum players are practicing patience and will be road warriors for an undetermined number of weeks as an artificial-turf project is completed on the field at the high school.

The Mustangs have been getting work done at a number of facilities in the area and have worked out a few times at the borough fields along Ross Hollow Road.

“There are no drop-dead deadlines, but you see work being done on the field every day, and it’s exciting,” Vollmer said.

“When it is done, with all the other work around the field, including state-of-the-art lighting, it will be one of the nicer facilities in the WPIAL. But we haven’t missed a beat because we’ve had some really great places available to us to practice.”

Just two players — seniors Matt Frazzetta and Ethan Kircher — have varsity experience from two years ago. Vollmer said he is counting on their leadership on and off the field.

Last spring, eight seniors were denied the opportunity to play their final varsity seasons, but they were able to join together for more than a dozen games over the summer as part of the Western Pennsylvania Baseball League.

“It’s awesome to be back together, and I can’t wait for the season,” said Frazzetta, who will man the corner infield positions, see a little time on the mound and be counted on for production in the middle of the lineup.

“I know we are going to come out hard hoping for a section title. We dropped down to 5A, so that will give us a boost against some new teams.”

Kircher, the team’s starting catcher and another key middle-of-the-lineup hitter, is currently out for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time as he recovers from a case of mono. He said a couple of weeks out is the most likely scenario.

“We hope to get him back as soon as possible,” Vollmer said. “His family moved to Florida, but he stayed north to play his senior year with his teammates. For (mono) to happen to him is pretty rotten. We want him to get healthy and then go out and have the type of season we know he’s capable of having.”

Vollmer said he feels the team is pretty balanced with a solid lineup, talented pitching staff and a defense that can make all of the necessary plays.

“We have guys fighting for at-bats and innings on the mound,” Vollmer said. “That competition is what has pushed them every day.”

Junior Colin Solinski and sophomores Caden Norcutt and Brady Dojonovic, Vollmer said, are expected to be at the heart of the pitching staff.

“Our pitching staff will be young and talented,” Vollmer said. “They are just scratching the surface of what they are capable of.”

Vollmer said junior Sylvio Ionadi has the ability to have a breakout year at shortstop.

“I am just thankful to get out there and play,” Ionadi said. “It’s going to be a big season for me. I’ve been waiting six or seven years for this. You always grow up looking at the varsity players. Those are the guys you want to be. Now, I am in that position. I hope to go out and do big things.”

Plum is in Section 2-5A with Armstrong, Fox Chapel, Hampton, Mars, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills.

“There is some familiarity in the section, but there also are some new faces in Armstrong, Mars and Hampton, and they are good teams and good programs,” Vollmer said. “I think we’re up to the challenge.”

Plum traditionally heads south to kick off its season. As that is not possible this year, the Mustangs instead are slated to open at North Hills on March 29.

“As in most years, our margin for error is thin, but if we play well, we can play with anybody,” Vollmer said.

“Being in Plum, we have that capability. I don’t think every school can say that every year. There is enough talent to compete for the section and make a run in the playoffs.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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