Plum baseball team misses playoffs for 1st time in 13 seasons
By: William Whalen
Friday, May 17, 2019 | 8:03 PM
It was a matter of when, not if, and everyone knew it had to end some day. Nobody wanted it to happen on their watch. But for the first time in 13 seasons, the Plum baseball team did not show up in a WPIAL postseason bracket.
“It was a disappointing season, especially for the seniors because we worked so hard,” said senior pitcher and UNC Asheville commit Gino Marra. “It was a tough battle, and we did our best but we just couldn’t pull through.”
A rather large senior class, 11 to be exact, will toss graduation caps this June and become a part of local Plum baseball trivia.
“This is the first time this has happened in a long time, and we are in uncharted territory,” Mustangs coach Carl Vollmer said. “For me, as coach, it’s not something we want to get used to here in Plum. We recognize that we fell short, but we don’t accept this as normal.”
The last time Plum (8-12, 4-6) missed the postseason and finished with a sub-.500 record was 2006, Vollmer’s second season. Like this season, the Mustangs went 2-2 down the back half of the section schedule and finished with a 9-10 overall record and 5-7 in the section.
“A lot of us think we let our coach down,” Marra said. “I know that we all worked hard, and we definitely tried our best to try and turn it around.”
Having a ton of talent year-in and year-out finally caught up to Plum. While the Mustangs had 11 seniors, their experience varied greatly.
“Although they were older and had been in our program for a while, they didn’t have a whole lot of varsity experience,” Vollmer said. “We were youthful in some cases and inexperienced in others.”
The residual effect of inexperienced upperclassmen was trying to find the right combination of starters who would be consistent. The problem for Plum was the season came to an end before the Mustangs could find it.
The Mustangs split their series with every team in Section 2-6A except Hempfield (11-9, 5-5). The Spartans outscored the Mustangs, 9-2, over their two section matchups, finished one game ahead of Plum in the section standings and earned the fourth and final playoff spot. Had the Mustangs been able to split with Hempfield, they would have kept the streak alive.
“I know that we have a program that on any given day, we can beat anybody and compete with anybody,” Vollmer said. “Fifteen of the 17 WPIAL games we played this year were against playoff teams.
“Every day we had to be prepared, and our margins for error were razor thin. Our games were decided, in many cases, by a very small margin.”
The glaring difference this season from years past was the Mustangs were on the wrong side of one-run games. Five of Plum’s 12 losses by one run.
“A play or two, a bat or two, it was an up-and-down season with some highlights with Marra throwing a no hitter,” Vollmer said.
Marra and fellow senior Evan Sante, an outfielder and Washington & Jefferson commit, were named first team all-section.
If history is any indicator, Plum will be back in the postseason next season.
“The guys have to draw off of their experiences this year and know what it takes to be a top-five team in the WPIAL,” Vollmer said. “I think the formula and the program has proven to be successful.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.