WPIAL baseball playoffs: Plum silences Norwin offense

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It's not that the Plum baseball team has a maturity issue, but the Mustangs did give Norwin sophomoric attitude Friday.

Sophomore pitchers Alex Kirillof and Zach Nolan shut down one of the WPIAL's top offenses and Plum edged Norwin, 2-1, in a Class AAAA first-round game at Woodland Hills.

Kirillof and Nolan combined for a three-hitter as Plum (15-5), the No. 10 seed, advanced to the quarterfinals today against Baldwin. Norwin (14-4) came in averaging 9.8 runs a game, but the Knights could manage only three singles in the first three innings. J.J. Matijevic, who led the WPIAL in batting average, home runs and RBIs in the regular season, was 0 for 4.

"Did I think we would hold them to one run? No," said Plum coach Carl Vollmer. "But at this point, Alex does not handle himself like a sophomore. This is Zach's first year on the varsity, but we know what he's capable of, too. It's exciting for our program to know we have those two for the next couple years."

Kirillof, a left-hander, pitched the first five innings and allowed three hits while striking out four. Nolan pitched the final two, allowed only one walk and struck out two.

For Norwin, it was another frustrating playoff defeat. The Knights lost in the first round for the third year in a row.

"I wish I had the answers," said Norwin coach Mike Liebdzinski. "I can't explain it. We hit .400 all year. No disrespect to [Plum], but those are pitchers we should put runs against."

Matijevic, a University of Arizona recruit, struck out once, grounded out twice and flied out to left field.

"This was certainly unusual for him," Liebdzinski said. "The last at-bat when he was 0-for-3, you think he's going to hit a double or a home run. But things happen. Unfortunately, it happens way too often for us. We have good years, but for whatever reason we can't come through in the playoffs. Maybe it's something in our preparation."

Plum took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Mike Maleski singled and moved to third on pitcher Noah Smith's errant pickoff throw. He scored on Kirillof's single.

Norwin tied it in the second when Kevin Kuhn was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a bunt and scored on Dan Passarello's single.

But Plum took the lead in the bottom of the second when Zach Sansonetti walked, moved to second on Brandon Hoener's single, to third on an error and scored when Smith balked.

When Matijevic hit a hard ground ball for an out in the seventh, Plum was in good shape.

"[For Matijevic], we wanted to go inside hard at him," Vollmer said. "Honestly, I think people are afraid to go inside on him. They go middle away.

"He's the most elite hitter in the WPIAL and they are the best offensive team in the WPIAL. We had a plan coming in and knew what we wanted to do against them. Fortunately, we executed it and our pitchers did enough."

For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.

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