North Carroll's quiet Plunkert leads with bat Key to stretch run: The 4-4 Panthers will look to their cleanup hitter to help carry them the rest of the season.

April 28, 1996|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The free-flowing, left-handed swing was always there, way back from his T-ball days when he was 5.

The steady glove at third was something he worked on and got comfortable with over the years.

As a freshman at North Carroll a few years back, Jon Plunkert played football and wrestled along with playing baseball. The senior said playing on the offensive line was kind of boring, so he started to play baseball through the fall. He was spending so much time on the diamond, he needed a break during the winter and didn't continue on with wrestling.

Jon Plunkert is a baseball player.

"I just enjoy it," Plunkert said. "You go out there to have fun; you have to be serious, but you can still have fun at the same time."

Plunkert and the Panthers had plenty of fun Thursday, handing Thomas Johnson its first Central Maryland Conference loss. The 4-0 shutout evened the Panthers' record (4-4 overall, 4-2 in the CMC) and was a good answer after their disheartening 7-6 loss Tuesday to Glenelg in a game that saw them take a 10-7 lead, only to have the runs erased when rain came in the sixth. Because Glenelg didn't get its three outs in the bottom of the inning, the score reverted back to the last complete inning.

The win against Thomas Johnson helped erase the loss, and Plunkert believes it could lead to bigger things.

"I hope it's a turning point," Plunkert said. "We need to be playing at a higher level, and I still think we have a shot at the CMC. All the teams are kind of cluttered together now."

Plunkert, who is hitting .379 with two homers, a triple and a double in the cleanup spot, will have a big say in how the Panthers do the rest of the way. Coach Denny Snyder counts on his quick bat and reliable defense at third.

"He makes all the plays and has really improved his defensive skills. As our cleanup hitter, he always puts the ball in play. He's only struck out three times this season," Snyder said. "He's a dedicated player who loves to play the game. A quiet leader who the rest of the kids feed off of."

Plunkert loves to hit and works hard at it. If he has a bad day at the plate, you can count on him taking 50 or 60 balls off the tee after the game.

"I'm a fastball hitter. The harder they throw the better," Plunkert said. "I look fastball and adjust to the curve and changeup. I'm four inches off the plate so I can see when a curve is coming and adjust. If I sit on a curve, then a fastball will get blown by me."

It's a lot harder than he makes it sound, but Plunkert makes it look easy at times with his smooth, line-drive stroke. Earlier in the season against South Carroll, Plunkert had a homer, triple, single and three RBIs in an 11-1 win. He ended another game early against Linganore with a homer that gave the Panthers enough for the 10-run rule.

Plunkert will stay busy. After the Panthers' season is complete, he'll skip over to Reisterstown to play in the metro league.

"We play about five games a week," he said. "When it rains, sometimes we play eight games a week -- doubleheader on top of doubleheader. It gets a little tiring, but I love it."

Pub Date: 4/28/96

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