With new field complete, Plum baseball looks to defend section crown

Saturday, March 19, 2022 | 12:41 PM

There are some things at Plum that need to be broken in.

Late last season, the Mustangs unveiled a sparkling new baseball field but were able to play only three home games on the artificial turf.

A year later, a talented — yet somewhat inexperienced group — hopes that a little more home cooking can continue the program’s solid history of success.

Plum finished 11-7 overall last season, gong 10-2 in Section 2-5A to earn the section title.

“We were very inexperienced last year,” said 18th- year coach Carl Vollmer. “We were coming off the covid year — and there were a lot of teams in that situation — but we were very inexperienced. Last year was a good year, but our goal is to have a better year.”

A better year undoubtedly would mean a sweeter finish. The Mustangs were bounced in the WPIAL first round by Latrobe in an 8-7 heartbreaker.

Plum lost three key bats from its lineup to graduation: Matt Frazzetta, Nathan McMasters and Ethan Kircher. But there is plenty in the cupboard for Vollmer.

“It was a really small (senior) class last year,” said Vollmer of the five departed players. “We return a lot from last year’s team, so the expectation is to take a step forward.”

Three Plum players already have decided on their collegiate homes. Outfielder John Ioannou is heading to Penn State Fayette, outfielder/pitcher Justin Giarusso to Washington & Jefferson and first baseman/pitcher Colin Solinski will play at Pitt-Johnstown.

Shortstop Silvo Ionadi led the team in RBIs last season.

“He’ll be in the top of our lineup somewhere,” Vollmer said. “I feel like we have some flexibility in the top of our lineup. We can move some guys and have some guys swinging the bat pretty well.

“Ioannou took a pretty big step forward from last year to this year. I think he’s ready to take a jump for us. Solinski will be in the middle of the lineup and played a significant role last year.”

On the mound, the Mustangs are deep, returning six of the seven pitchers who saw innings last season. Brady Dojonovic tossed the most, with Solinski and Giarusso forming a solid trio.

Sophomore Erik Streussnig was called up late last season and will be relied on more this year.

“We see something in him,” Vollmer said. “We have high expectations for him.

“We have five, six, seven guys who are able to get outs at the varsity level.”

While Vollmer wasn’t overly impressed with the stat sheets from last season, he did feel his team found a way to be resilient and grind out wins. And that’s something it will need against a competitive section that features the likes of perennial powers in Mars and Hampton, as well as Fox Chapel.

“It’s good,” said Vollmer of the group. “It’s going to be a dogfight. Mars reloads, Hampton is an area with good baseball and Fox Chapel is the same. I hope we are able to, and the expectation is that we can compete and be in the mix.”

Plum will get off to an unconventional start, playing section foe Armstrong in its first game in late March.

The Mustangs’ first home game will be played on its renovated field that now includes a new scoreboard. The dugout areas and stands also have been refurbished.

From a coaching standpoint, the extra time this winter on an artificial field has been invaluable to Vollmer.

“We’ve been on the field more this year than we have been in any other year since I’ve been here,” he said. “The offseason work that we were able to do on it, and the preseason work we’re able to do on it now, is paying dividends. I feel like we’re more prepared than we’ve ever been.”

That extra prep could be key in a razor thin section and could help Vollmer get a better, earlier grip on a team that is still very much learning on the fly.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “I don’t know what we are. We could be really good. But I’m excited to see us go out and want to find out how good we can be.”


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