Plum golfers going low in section competition

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Sunday, September 17, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The Plum boys golf team qualified for the WPIAL Class 3A team playoffs last season for the first time since 2013.

The Mustangs made an impact in the first round and advanced to the finals.

Several of the players from that team returned with a repeat performance in mind, and they put themselves in position over the course of four weeks to again qualify from Section 4.

“We made a really good run last year,” said junior Wes Lorish, who also qualified for the PIAA individual state tournament in 2022.

“We won a bunch of matches and only lost to Central Catholic. We didn’t play our best golf in the WPIAL finals, but we were proud of how far we made it.”

Jake Pedley was the only player from last year’s WPIAL lineup to move on because of graduation.

Junior Tim Pease, senior Carson Yocca and sophomores Dan Caruso and Tyler Pastor also returned after representing Plum in the WPIAL playoffs.

“There was a lot of excitement to start the season with all the guys who were coming back and after what we accomplished last season,” Lorish said.

Central Catholic clinched the top spot in the section with an 11-1 record, but the No. 2 spot to the playoffs was still up for grabs heading into a match between Plum and Kiski Area last Friday at Willowbrook Golf Club.

Both the Mustangs and Cavaliers were 7-3 in the section, and the winner would go a long way to wrapping up that berth into the WPIAL field.

“We’ve had some tough losses, but also some good wins,” Pease said.

“Beating Franklin Regional at Willowbrook was huge for us. It kept us in the running.”

Kiski Area got the better of Plum in the first meeting, 202-212, at Willowbrook on Aug. 28. It was the Mustangs’ highest total of the season. Lorish led the way with a 39.

“Kiski Area came out this year playing really good golf,” Lorish said.

“We beat them both times last year, but they really showed they were a better team this year. Some of their younger guys really improved. None of us really played well that first match with Kiski. It was tough to get that spark to get us going.”

Plum bounced back against Gateway one day later.

Lorish tied his best-ever nine-hole round in a high school match with a 32 against the Gators at Willowbrook.

“I felt good,” Lorish said of his round against the Gators.

“I was hitting the ball well and was making putts all day. The guy I was playing with, Carson, was playing really well, too. We were just feeding off of each other. There was a lot of positive energy.”

Yocca fired a 37 against Gateway, and Pease added a 38 as Plum scored a 194-243 victory. It was one of the Mustangs’ lowest team rounds of the season.

The best came against Penn Hills at Willowbrook four days earlier. Lorish also shot 32 in match with the Indians. Pease shot 38, and Yocca checked in with a 39 as Plum tallied a 193-281 victory.

The Plum players expected a challenging and competitive race in the section for the two WPIAL playoff spots.

Central Catholic and Plum were the qualifiers last year, and Franklin Regional and Kiski Area had plans to make it a four-team race this time around.

“It is nice to have this much good completion in the section,” Lorish said.

“Playing against really good players make you better, especially for some of our younger and less-experienced players. We expected it would be a challenge to get back to the playoffs. We’ve seen so many close matches decided by just a couple of strokes.”

Franklin Regional handed Central Catholic its only section loss. Kiski Area edged the Panthers by one stroke on Sept. 7 at Willowbrook.

Plum bolstered its playoff resume with a season sweep of Franklin Regional. The first win came Sept. 1 by a 200-203 count with Lorish (37), Pease (38) and Yocca (40) as the top three finishers for the Mustangs.

The second win came last Wednesday at Meadowink Golf Club as four Plum golfers — Lorish (34), Yocca (36), Pease (39) and Pastor (39) — shot in the 30s.

Junior Luca Lapiana carded a 47 to round out the top five.

Plum was to step away from team competition Monday as six from the team entered the Section 1 individual qualifier at Meadowink. For a golfer to qualify for the next round in the WPIAL process, he had to record a target score of 80 or better.

“Every match we’ve had this season so far has been good for us, and any time you can get out on the course and work on improving your game, it’s a really good thing,” Pease said.

“We’ve put in the time, and I think we’ve seen the results.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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