Strong finish carries Plum to slow-pitch softball finals

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Sunday, October 31, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Plum slow-pitch softball team entered the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Softball League single-elimination playoffs Oct. 23 hoping to make a run to the title game.

As the No. 6 seed, the Mustangs did just that.

Plum upended No. 11 Penn-Trafford, 21-12, in the first round, scored an 11-5 win over No. 3 Montour in the quarterfinals and stopped No. 2 Shaler, 7-4, in the semifinals.

Despite a loss to No. 1 Bethel Park, 24-20, in the title game Oct. 26, coach Mark Proviano said he was pleased with his team’s effort in going head-to-head with the league’s best teams.

“Both teams, offensively, were pretty capable in that (championship) game,” Proviano said. “There was some big-time hitting going on. I am very proud of the girls, not only for their accomplishments but also for their hard work to grow and get better every day so they could peak at the right time.

“The cohesiveness, the chemistry and being a tight-knit group really carried them through to where they were able to have the success they had. They really pulled for each other all season.”

Proviano, who has coached at all three levels of Plum slow-pitch, including junior high and junior varsity, said a strong finish to the regular season — Plum won six of eight down the stretch — gave the team a lot of momentum for the playoffs.

“Heading into the playoffs, we had gained some confidence, and it really showed in the first round against Penn-Trafford,” Proviano said.

“Montour had beaten us pretty bad in two games the opening weekend of the season. We didn’t get through the fifth inning in either game. Montour is a traditionally strong program, which has won several league titles. But the girls rose to the occasion (in the quarterfinals) and got a nice win. They then kept it going against Shaler. The girls laid the groundwork for the playoffs, and they had faith they could make a run, no matter what their seed was. It was one thing to feel like we were a team that could do big things in the playoffs. The girls also wanted to prove it on the field, and they did that.”

A large group of 15 seniors out of 18 total on the roster, Proviano said, helped fuel optimism coming into the season.

“As a coach, you are always excited and hopeful for the journey that lies in front of you,” he said. “We had several returning starters we knew we could count on, and there were others that were ready to step up into starting roles. That senior group, I had been involved with them since junior high, and it was nice to watch them grow throughout the years. I knew they wanted to finish with a strong season and would do whatever they could to achieve that.

“This league has gotten to be really good with a lot of good, historical programs. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road.”

Plum started 1-4 before a three-game win streak evened its record. The Mustangs then suffered a doubleheader loss to Baldwin that put them at 4-6 before their strong finish.

Proviano said this year’s players hold a great respect for the tradition the Plum program has built over the past decade in the WPISL. That tradition includes league titles in 2015, ‘17 and ‘18.

Senior Cassidy Starr was a freshman call-up to varsity for the 2018 playoffs, and in her first at-bat, she clubbed a home run.

The other seniors on this year’s team were Lindsey Adams, Amanda Beyer, Ella Caruso, Heidi Churchel, Emma Denne, Madison Ford, Megan Miller, Jenna Nardo, Jaelin O’Connell, Angelina Proviano, Jessica Proviano, Alivia Schreiber, Angelina Sylvester and Noel Zwieryznski.

They were joined by junior Rachel Haerr and sophomores Carena Dapra and Angelina Elliott.

“Every single player on the team made an impact in some form this season. It wasn’t just one or two players,” coach Proviano said.

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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