East Xtra: Plum's fast finish upholds softball standard

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Overall Class AAAA Section 2 may have had a down year by previous year standards but that did not stop Plum from putting together a solid 2013 campaign.

The Mustangs finished section play 10-2, good enough for a second-place finish behind McKeesport (16-4, 12-0).

With seven returning starters, Plum (14-5 overall) was one of the more experienced teams in the section. Defending champion Franklin Regional moved to Section 1 this season leaving the door open for a new champion.

The Mustangs were not able to knock off McKeesport, but with one of the more dangerous lineups in the WPIAL, Plum could be one of the better second-place teams in the WPIAL playoff field.

Plum scored in double figures in 10 of its first 16 games this season. It has a lineup that features junior shortstop Jordan Seneca and junior catcher Melissa LeClair, two players with five home runs each this season and a combined 50 RBIs.

Seneca is one of the top talents in the WPIAL. She leads Plum in batting average (.568), slugging percentage (1.250), on-base percentage (.672), stolen bases (12), walks (16), triples (4) and doubles (7). She also has 22 RBIs.

Senior Amy Flynn starts at second base alongside Seneca in the middle infield. Flynn has 12 runs scored, 9 RBIs and a .295 batting average.

The only positions coach Jim McGrath had to fill was third base and catcher. LeClair, a former third baseman, moved to catcher and junior Karlie Serakowski took over at third base. LeClair is a catcher on her travel ball team and the transition was an easy one for her.

"It is a nice fit for her, she has a good arm," McGrath said.

LeClair has a team-high 28 RBIs and is batting .444. She has only struck out three times this season in 51 plate appearances.

Other returning starters include outfielders senior Annie Workman and Stella Pratt. Workman has scored 14 runs this season and she has driven in 11. She is batting .283 with 11 walks on the season and has an on-base percentage of .414.

Pratt has scored 25 runs and driven in 12. She is batting .320 with a .413 on-base percentage.

Pitching duties have been split between senior Lyndi Gareis and sophomore Jessica Bitsura. Gareis is 4-3 with a 2.40 ERA over 49 innings. She has struck out 34 while only walking nine. Bitsura is 6-1 with a 3.04 ERA over 30 innings. She has struck out 24 while only walking seven.

"It depends on the game, sometimes we pitch both within a game," McGrath said. "Jessica has a little more speed and a better changeup. Lyndi is not as fast but she does have movement on the ball. It is a different look we can show other teams."

Over the past few weeks Plum has had a chance to challenge itself out of section. It played Penn-Trafford, Valley, Shaler Area and Hampton and was scheduled to close the regular season out against Butler Area today.

The Mustangs picked up wins against Valley and Hampton. They had a chance to knock off Shaler, but two errors allowed Shaler to score all four of its runs in a 4-0 game.

"We are lucky we have a chance to play some competitive teams to get ready for the playoffs," McGrath said. "Shaler was a good game, the two errors cost us, but other than that I thought we held our own."

A big addition to the team this season was senior outfielder Savannah Zummo. A travel ball player, Zummo had chosen to run track during the spring previously rather than play softball.

"We have been trying to get her on the high school team," McGrath said. "She is a track star, very quick. This year she decided to play softball, which is good news for us."

Shoulder problems forced Zummo to be a designated player but her bat has been invaluable in the lineup. Zummo has scored 13 runs and driven in seven while batting .326.

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