Plum baseball preparing for promising season with Florida training trip

Saturday, March 11, 2023 | 11:01 AM

The Plum baseball team is in Florida this week for some practice time and game play under sunny skies and in temperatures expected to reach the upper 70s.

The excursion south, veteran coach Carl Vollmer said, is expected to serve as an extension to an already productive series of workouts leading up to and including the first week of official preseason practices.

“It was the best stretch of days before practices started in a long time with a lot of dry, warm weather in addition to us having the turf field,” Vollmer said.

“We’ve been outside a significant amount, even in January. That is highly unusual. We want to believe that the work we did has us already further ahead than in years past.”

Plum will be in Tampa for several days and will have two scrimmages Thursday, a season-opening doubleheader Friday and a single game Saturday.

“We’re looking forward to getting down there and getting a lot of work in,” Vollmer said.

“The one thing that scares me a little bit is that we are used to the turf, and that is a hard and fast clay infield (in Florida) that we simply don’t have any experience on.”

Plum will take the Florida trip for the first time since 2019. The Mustangs were slated to head to Florida in 2020, but the start of the covid pandemic, which eventually caused the cancellation of the entire spring season, scuttled those plans.

Several key components of last year’s team moved on because of graduation. Foremost in that group was Valley News Dispatch first-team pick and all-section second-team selection Justin Giarrusso, as well as VND and all-section first-team honoree Silvio Ionadi; and VND second-team and all-section honorable mention selection Colin Solinski.

They helped Plum finish third in Section 2-5A at 8-4 behind champion Mars (11-1) and Hampton (9-3).

Plum garnered the No. 11 seed for the WPIAL playoffs and faced Shaler in the first round. The Mustangs were not able to advance, falling to the Titans, 4-2, to end their season 12-7 overall.

Seniors Brady Dojonovic (first team all-section) and Caden Norcutt (honorable mention all-section) are back to lead on the mound and at the plate.

“We definitely missed out on some opportunities last year,” said Dojonovic, who led the returnees in batting with a .343 average.

“But we’ve put in the work in the offseason to be ready. Most of us have played together since we were 8 or 9 years old, and we definitely have that chemistry built up. We’ve added a couple of underclassmen to the mix, and they mix well. We’re pushing forward every day and having fun.”

Norcutt and junior Colin Watson led the returning pitchers with a pair of victories.

Nick Lamia, Carson Svidron and Logan Kemmerer also return and are among a senior class hoping to break through in the postseason.

“I feel like we have a nice group of arms,” Vollmer said. “I am excited about our pitching staff. Overall, we have the ingredients to be pretty good. It’s all going to depend on our execution. Last year, we pitched well enough, but we didn’t swing the bats well enough. We just didn’t create enough offense to get to the level we wanted to get to. We never separated ourselves in games.

“I am hoping we took a step forward with that over the summer, fall and winter to be a better offensive team. When you hit well, it takes the pressure off the pitching as well as the defense.”

Vollmer expects the pitching staff to get a boost with the full return to health of junior Erik Streussing. Injury last year limited Streussing’s availability on the mound.

“He only threw four or five innings for us,” Vollmer said. “Erik has the potential to be a very good arm. He’s right there with the top returning guys. He’s probably our hardest thrower.

“We’re taking 10 pitchers to Florida, and we’re going to see how it all shakes out. A number of those guys have experience, and they know what we expect from them.”

Plum moves over to Section 1-5A and will face a number of familiar foes. The Mustangs again will play Armstrong and Fox Chapel and also will do battle with Gateway, Franklin Regional, Penn Hills and Penn-Trafford.

Fox Chapel was the fourth team last year from Section 2 at 7-5, while Armstrong missed the postseason as the section’s No. 5 team at 5-7.

Penn-Trafford, Gateway and Franklin Regional also were playoff qualifiers in 2022.

The Gators, as the No. 15 seed for the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs, took No. 2 Bethel Park to 11 innings before the Black Hawks prevailed. Bethel Park went on to place third in the WPIAL and win the state title.

“It is back to a more geographical-type section, what we seemed to have for years,” Vollmer said. “It is going to be a difficult section. There are teams in there from very good programs. It’s going to be a battle, for sure. With these two-game series, you’re going to be lucky to get out of any one of them with a split. Hopefully, we’re in the mix in the end.”

In addition to the start of section play upon the return from Florida, Plum will take on a couple of Class 6A foes in Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley and North Allegheny early in the schedule.

“Our schedule overall is pretty tough, but we like it that way,” Vollmer said.

“We’re just excited and looking forward to getting into the games and challenging ourselves. I like our guys. We have the potential to be a pretty good team. We just have to go out there and show it on a day-to-day basis.”

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


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