East Xtra: Plum girls pointing toward success

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At first glance, the internal goals set by the Plum High School softball team seem not unlike most other WPIAL teams, win the section title, win a playoff game.

Taking a further look at the Plum program shows how meaningful accomplishing those two goals would be.

Plum has not won a section title since 2009. It plays in Class AAAA Section 2, home to a dominant McKeesport team.

Even longer than its section title drought is its postseason winning drought, Plum has never won a playoff game.

"This season we are going to try to take the section and look to get past that first game of the playoffs," Plum coach Jim McGrath said. "We have never done that."

Plum does not appear to be very far away from either goal.

The Mustangs finished 10-2 in the section last year, finishing second behind McKeesport. Plum lost its two section games to McKeesport by four and six runs. In the playoffs Plum was eliminated in the first round by Penn-Trafford, 7-0. It was the fifth consecutive first-round exit for the team.

Plum certainly has the talent to get over the postseason hump this year with senior shortstop Jordan Seneca and senior third baseman Melissa LeClair. Seneca and LeClair were the top two bats in the Plum lineup last season. They will bat in the No. 3 and 4 slots this season.

Seneca batted .564 with five home runs and 24 RBIs last season while scoring 35 runs. A Saint Francis (Pa.) recruit, Seneca broke her right wrist during the basketball season but McGrath said she is fully recovered.

"I think this team has a lot of experience," McGrath said. "And our offense -- we have some nice bats in the order and we have some speed. We are going to see how we do this first week, we have some tough games coming up. We think we have a pretty good defense and a pretty good offense."

The Mustangs have to replace two all-section players who graduated, designated player Savannah Zummo and pitcher Lyndi Gareis.

Although the senior infield duo of Seneca and LeClair is going to be vital to Plum's chances, a trio of incoming freshmen will have a lot to say with how far Plum can go. Amanda Dynoske, Marissa Lynch and Michaela Palmiere are all expected to contribute. Dynoske will take over as starting pitcher. Lynch will see playing time in the outfield and Palmiere will start at second base.

McGrath was well aware of the incoming freshman class.

"We keep an eye out on the junior high team, we work with them in fall ball," McGrath said. "Amanda will be our pitcher. I think she will be alright, she seems to have a lot of different pitches."

Junior Kaitlyn Mallik will start at catcher with senior Ashley Oravetz at first base, Palmiere at second base, Seneca at shortstop and LeClair at third base. In the outfield seniors Samantha Billstone and Stella Pratt start in right field and center field, respectively. Pratt will also bat leadoff in the Plum lineup. In left field, sophomores Ryley Handyside and Hannah Adamski will split time.

Plum's regular-season opener Monday against McKeesport was postponed.

"I think [the section title race] is probably going to be McKeesport and us," McGrath said. "Gateway is going to be in there as well and Woodland Hills is always a competitor."


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