Plum baseball motivated to return to playoffs after down year

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Monday, March 16, 2020 | 3:32 PM


Over the past decade and a half, the Plum baseball team has been a mainstay in the WPIAL playoffs.

Up until last season, the Mustangs hadn’t missed the playoffs since 2006. But no program, especially in high school, can avoid a down year, and they experienced theirs last season. They went 8-12 and finished fifth in Section 2-6A.

The Mustangs don’t expect their playoff hiatus to last long, and they are motivated to make it back to the playoffs this season.

“It definitely left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth,” senior pitcher and infielder Logan Schlegel said. “We’re definitely determined to bounce back and show everybody what Plum baseball is really about. We want to get back to the playoffs because that’s what the expectation is here.”

Ten seniors graduated, but an accomplished group returns.

Leading the way is pitcher and infielder Jared Hoener. The 6-foot-1 senior pitched 30 2/3 innings last season, recorded a 2.28 ERA, struck out 26 and allowed 10 earned runs.

“I feel like he’ll have a very good year on the mound,” Plum coach Carl Vollmer said. “He had a very good year for us last year, and he beat some very good teams. I think it was unexpected a little last year and not many people knew who he was.”

Hoener came up big in games against Penn-Trafford and Latrobe. Against P-T, the WPIAL Class 6A runner-up, Hoener threw 6 1/3 innings and only allowed one earned run while striking out five and walking three. He also threw a shutout against Latrobe while scattering three hits. He will be one of many pitchers this season, though, as the Mustangs believe they have depth on the mound.

“I think we have a lot of guys who can pitch. We have a lot of arms, and we have a lot of guys who can throw strikes. I think that’s one of our strengths,” Hoener said. “We have a couple of guys who can take that lead role. I don’t think it’s going to come down to just one guy. We have a couple of guys that we can rely on.”

The Mustangs also have players throughout their lineup who could be on the verge of big seasons at the plate. Brandon Lane hit .315 last spring, and Vollmer said catcher Dan McCaffery can hit to all fields.

“I think we have some guys in the lineup that not many people know about,” Schlegel said. “We have some younger guys in the lineup that can really hit. But just all around, I think we can put up some good numbers.”

To get back to the playoffs, the Mustangs will have to make their way through Section 2-6A, which includes P-T, along with Connellsville, Hempfield, Norwin and Latrobe. While it may be tough, Vollmer said it hopefully will get them ready for the postseason.

“I think we’ll surprise some people this year,” Vollmer said. “If we can scratch and claw our way into the playoffs, I think we’ll be a very battle-tested team because our section will prepare us for that.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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