Plum baseball team eager to tackle summer tournament schedule

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Saturday, June 19, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Plum Bulldogs baseball team members are no strangers to each other.

“Most of these guys have been playing together since they were 7,” coach Dan Macioce said.

The high-school age squad, made up mostly of players transitioning from the Plum varsity and JV teams this spring, is hoping for another successful summer of tournament action.

“With most of the guys, we should be playing in 16-year-old tournaments, but we have three 18-year-olds, so we are playing in all 18-year-old tournaments,” Macioce said. “It’s better for them anyway because they are all varsity players. It’s just good competition and good experience for the underclassmen coming back to the high school team next year.”

The Bulldogs played in their first tournament earlier this month in Belle Vernon and made it to the semifinals before being eliminated.

The team also played in an Atlantic Coast tournament the weekend of June 12 and made the semifinals before being knocked off by the Pittsburgh Baseball Academy.

“Pittsburgh Baseball Academy is a strong, well-coached team,” Macioce said. “But we played well.”

Plum is slated to play in the high school division of the 11th annual Cap Classic Pittsburgh on Thursday through Sunday against AAU and other travel teams from throughout the country.

Games involving nearly 250 teams in 10 age groups will be at Plum, as well as at locations such as Pullman Park in Butler, Gateway High School, Monroeville Park West, Seton Hill and Woodland Hills High School.

“It is a quality, well-run tournament,” Macioce said. “We are really looking forward to getting in there and testing ourselves against some really good teams.”

The Bulldogs hope to play in seven or eight tournaments before the summer season concludes late next month.

Nine members of the Bulldogs squad — Johnny Ioannnou, Christian Brown, Josh Gentile, James Rumcik, Caden Norcutt, Nick Lamia, Nate McMasters, Justin Giarrusso and Logan Kemmerer — were members of the Plum varsity baseball team this spring.

“It’s really great to be together again and go after these tournaments,” Norcutt said. “We’ve played a lot of games with each other and are comfortable in handling situations on the field because we know each other so well.”

Macioce said it was certain the Bulldogs players were coming back even before Plum’s high school season ended midway through last month.

“These guys played together (in 17U) in tournaments last summer and really did well,” Macioce said. “We won our last tournament out in Belle Vernon. It was a nice way to end that season. It also was nice to be able to play with so many other summer seasons and tournaments canceled because of covid.”

Team member Christian Brown, a recent Plum graduate, played on both last year’s Bulldogs team and the Plum High School team that took part in the Western Pennsylvania Summer Baseball League that rose from the cancellation of the 2020 high school baseball season.

Danny McCafferey, a 2020 Plum graduate, is back playing this summer. Surgery to repair an injury sidelined him for his freshman season at La Roche, but Macioce said he recently was cleared to play.

McCafferey also played games with both Plum teams last summer.

Catcher Frank Macioce, the coach’s son, suffered a knee injury in football that required surgery. He came back for the final eight games of Plum’s high school baseball season and is ready for a summer workload of tournament games.

Griffin Oresic, a rising junior and standout on the Plum basketball team, returns to baseball after three seasons away from the game. He is getting his pitching back up to speed this summer and figures into the rotation with the likes of Norcutt, Rumcik, Brown, Giarrusso and Hayden Shelatz.

“It’s a great opportunity for our kids to play in a lot of these tournaments,” Macioce said. “Every one of these kids is from Plum. A lot of the teams we play, they can’t believe we’re not an AAU team and we’re not pulling kids from all over. Ever since they were young kids, they’ve been able to compete with all of those teams.”

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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