Plum sweeps Franklin Regional, sets up showdown for 1st place in section

Friday, May 5, 2023 | 9:53 PM

While Plum was flying high Thursday after its dramatic come-from-behind victory over Franklin Regional, there was no truth to the rumor that its mode of transportation Friday for the rematch was a broomstick.

Although that would have come in handy after the Mustangs swept the Panthers, winning 8-2 Friday and setting up a showdown series next week with Fox Chapel for the section crown.

“That was the goal at the beginning, so anything less than that would be a disappointment,” Plum sophomore third baseman Daniel Macioce said of winning the section championship. “We’re going to go out there, and that’s what we want to achieve.”

Plum is in position to win the section title or earn a share of it thanks to a solid team performance at Haymaker Park on Friday.

Plum used a big five-run fifth inning to bust the game open and made sure Franklin Regional would not come back like the Mustangs did the day before, trailing 5-0 and rallying to win 7-5.

“We played with energy and we ran our system well,” Plum coach Carl Vollmer said. “Everyone in our lineup had a hit. It was a solid performance all around.”

The Panthers struck first again when junior Max Bernadowski ripped a triple to deep right-center field to lead off the bottom of the first inning. He then scored on a Blake Bertucci ground out.

Bertucci was strong on the mound for FR, blanking the Mustangs through three innings before Plum senior Carson Sivdron hit a two-out RBI single to score junior Jack Anderson to tie the game in the fourth inning.

They say baseball is a game of inches, and that was evident in the big fifth inning for Plum. Following walks to junior Sean Franzi and Anderson, junior Erik Streussnig delivered an RBI single to put the Mustangs up 2-1.

Macioce then hit a sinking line drive to right field that Panthers junior Cole Brinker came sliding in and appeared to make a fabulous catch; however, after hitting the ground and rolling, the ball popped loose and two runs scored.

“He made a good play on it,” Macioce said. “But whenever he rolled over, the ball kind of popped out and the ump made a good call and it benefitted us.”

Plum junior Colin Watson, the winning pitcher and hero with two big hits Thursday, followed the single with a two-run homer to straightaway centerfield.

“It got everybody hyped because everyone is happy for him,” Macioce said. “Colin’s a grinder, and I’m happy to see that for him.”

Franklin Regional scratched home another run in the bottom of the fifth inning on another RBI groundout by Betucci that scored sophomore Chase Lemke.

The exclamation point on the Plum victory came in the top of the sixth when senior Caden Norcutt singled home junior Domenic Beyer and Streussnig’s sac fly scored Norcutt with the game’s final run.

Mustangs senior Brady Dojonovic was the starter and winning pitcher.

“Brady was excellent and has been all year,” Vollmer said.

He allowed two earned runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts in six innings pitched.

“You have to tip your cap to Dojonovic for pitching a nice game,” Franklin Regional coach Bob Saddler said. “Plum took advantage of opportunities in the middle innings. I was proud of our boys for battling the whole game, but unfortunately, we came up short.”

Franklin Regional (6-4, 11-5) will now face Penn-Trafford (7-3, 11-4) while Plum (8-2, 11-6) and Fox Chapel (7-3, 11-5) square off for first place in Section 1-5A.

The Mustangs visit the Foxes on Monday before hosting them on Tuesday.

“I’m proud of the effort,” Vollmer said. “Our two-strike hitting was the key and will continue to be as we move forward into another tough series next week.”

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