East Xtra: Plum winning despite a lack of numbers

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All summer long the Plum American Legion team had to deal with what so many other Legion teams deal with -- the lack of interested players.

Since the beginning of the season, second-year manager Mark Dargay has seen his numbers dwindle, and at times, only had enough players to fill every position in a game and had to hope for no injuries.

"The biggest struggle has been getting players to show up," Dargay said. "We have four that quit and others who have family vacations.

"I just wish we had a few more people in reserve that we could use. Pitching is the key and I wish we had more pitchers."

The pitching they had consisted of senior Phillip Mahr, graduate David Cross and college freshman Brandon Hoener.

"We have three solid starters in Mahr, Cross and Hoener," Dargay said. "They are three solid starters. We have a ninth grader, Michael Anderson, who has added to the rotation but we have been using him out of the bullpen."

Cross is going to play at Pitt-Greensburg and Hoener finished his freshman year pitching at Waynesburg University.

Through the frustration, Plum still had a season to remember, finishing second in the Allegheny County East Division and advancing to the Region 6 tournament at Connellsville High School.

They went 0-2 in the regionals, losing their first game, 10-0, to Uniontown before getting knocked out by Monroeville, 9-4.

"We played our last two playoff games very well," Dargay said before the regional tournament. "We were playing solid and felt like we could advance in this regional."

To get to regionals, Plum went 2-1 in its county playoffs, losing the first game to Monroeville before winning two win-or-go-home contests.

Plum defeated Springdale, 8-2, and narrowly escaped Shaler, 3-2, in a game that served as its championship to advance to the regionals.

"It was a very well-played game," Dargay said. "They were all into it. They were focused every pitch. Everybody was there. We were up, 3-2, in the bottom of the sixth and they had runners on first and second with no outs. Mahr was my pitcher and he went into another gear. He struck out the side after that and the seventh was a 1-2-3 inning.

"It was a rallying point for us. We were making plays that we booted earlier in the season."

Errors are a part of the game, but a facet Dargay saw way too much of.

"Our downfall during the season was our errors and walking batters," Dargay said.

Plum finished the season 9-13 but was pleased with the improvement from last year.

"It has been a good year for the guys who have stuck it out," Dargay said. "Sometimes the numbers come back and bite us.

"Everybody has played the best they could and have contributed in one way or another in all the games. Overall, I am pleased with the effort and their abilities."

Dargay will look to build on this year's success for the future but his results will come down to one aspect -- getting the players.

"We didn't make it out of the East playoffs last year," Dargay said. "We lost the first two games. We took another step forward. I am hoping next year we take another step forward and a lot of that has to do with getting the players."

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