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Plum baseball has strong fall season

Plum fielded three teams in the Western Pennsylvania Fall Baseball League, and all of them enjoyed a successful fall season.

The three Plum teams — one varsity and two junior varsity clubs — had a combined record of 27-6.

“There’s no down side to winning. It allows you to build momentum going into the winter,” said Plum coach Carl Vollmer. “Any time you take the field, whether it’s fall or spring, you want to win. That’s part of a culture we want to build and have, and we want to continue that.”

Plum baseball has been one of the most successful programs in the WPIAL for more than a decade, qualifying for the playoffs 12 of the last 13 years.

The Mustangs’ streak of eight consecutive playoff appearances — the longest in Class AAAA — includes 2014, when Plum went 15-6 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals.

That success has carried over to the fall. Plum’s varsity team, which won the WPFBL championship last year, went 10-3 this fall.

The Mustangs lost 2-1 in the playoffs to Bethel Park and pitcher Corey Augenstein, a Pitt recruit.

“The fall season is the first building block for our season, and every year it’s working toward winning a WPIAL championship in the spring,” Vollmer said. “This is just step one in that work. We start in mid-August and go to mid-October, a total of about 10 weeks.

“The fall’s about evaluating and implementing our system. For the younger kids, it’s about showing their progress from the previous spring and seeing if they’ve taken a step forward and are able to compete at the next level, from ninth grade to JV and from JV to varsity.”

Vollmer said fall baseball in western Pennsylvania has grown rapidly since 2007, when Plum was one of six schools that started the WPFBL.

“Now there are 74 teams, including JV teams. For us in Plum, it’s evolved into a bigger and bigger part of our program and I think one of the reasons we’ve had success,” he said. “This year we had three teams and 59 kids out, which was incredible. We could have had four teams.”

The fall season gives the coaching staff an opportunity to see new freshmen and gauge the progress of returning players.

“In the fall we get a chance to evaluate. In the winter we do a lot of individual work, and in the spring we’re team building and working as a team more,” Vollmer said. “Those are the three phases of our program.”

The fall season also gives college recruiters a chance to see players they may not have time to see in the spring.

“We had schools at several weekends this fall,” Vollmer said. “We actually had one kid pick up an offer from a fall baseball game. Brian Albert is going to attend IUP on a baseball scholarship.”

Some key returning varsity players missed the fall season because they were on Plum’s football team. Another, junior standout Alex Kirilloff, played for the Allegheny Pirates, which Vollmer said was the top fall program in western Pennsylvania.

“That provided an opportunity for some other players, and we had some guys really step up,” Vollmer said. “Tommy Zummo and Taylor Vivino really played well and had impressive fall seasons.”

Plum got strong pitching from senior lefthander Nick Satovich and junior righty Ethan Winesburgh, who are expected to anchor a staff that returns all but one pitcher from last year.

“We had exit meetings with all the varsity players to give them an understanding as to where they stand as of right now,” Vollmer said. “That benefits both the players and the coaching staff because we’re going to have some really tough decisions this spring. There’s a lot of competition.”

Dave Schrecengost is a freelance writer.


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