The lingering wintry weather conditions made it difficult for many local high school teams to get on the baseball field in March.
So for the teams that traveled South for a few days, such as Plum, the extra time on the diamond was beneficial.
"Anybody who makes that trip will tell you how valuable it is," said Plum coach Carl Vollmer, whose team took a trip to Bradenton, Fla. "We spent 25 to 30 hours on the field and it would probably take two weeks in nice weather here to get that much practice.
"Not to mention it's also valuable from a team-bonding standpoint. There's just a lot of value in the trip and we were fortunate enough to be able to do it."
The Mustangs also had the pleasure of playing in the same ballpark, McKechnie Field, that serves as the Pirates spring-training home. It's the third time in four years the Mustangs have played at McKechnie Field.
"It's special," Vollmer said. "The kids get to play on a big league surface, stand in the same dugout as the players they watch on TV and aspire to be like. It's a pretty cool situation. And the ballpark is gorgeous. They've made so many improvements over the past few years."
But while the Pirates are having trouble scoring runs, the Mustangs have had no such problems so far this season.
Plum (6-1, 1-0 before Wednesday's section game against Gateway) scored 59 runs in its first seven games, including 27 in wins against Bryant (Ark.), Archbishop Stepinac of White Plains, N.Y., and White Plains (N.Y.), all in Florida.
Mike Maleski has been the catalyst. A junior second baseman, he had a whopping .765 batting average through six games with one home run.
Two other Mustangs, junior outfielder Zach Sansonettie and freshman first baseman/outfielder Alex Kirilloff were both hitting .500 entering the week. Nick Stotler was leading the team with eight RBIs.
Austin O'Block, a senior outfielder, is another returning starter.
Stotler also has pitched three scoreless innings on the mound, notching two saves. But the team's workhorse is Zac Manuppelli.
Through the team's first six games, the senior hurler was 2-0 with a 1.58 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 172/3 innings.
In his most recent start, Manuppelli got a no-decision in the team's 5-1 victory against Mt. Lebanon Friday, striking out 12 while walking none and giving up just three hits.
"We're going to be relying on Zac a lot this season," Vollmer said.
The victory against the Blue Devils was a bit of revenge for the Mustangs, who lost to Mt. Lebanon in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs last season.
It was the fourth consecutive season the Mustangs lost in the first round of the WPIAL tournament.
Vollmer thinks this team could be the one to break the streak, if it plays up to its capabilities.
"We feel like if we play to our standards, we can be very competitive with a lot of teams," Vollmer said.
"We have a lot of good baseball players, but our margin for error isn't huge so we have to play well. But our goals are lofty."