Andrew Muraco, slick defense carry Franklin Regional past Penn-Trafford

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Tuesday, April 6, 2021 | 9:10 PM


Because he has been such a good pitcher for Franklin Regional, some forget that Andrew Muraco is going to Coastal Carolina as an infielder — and for what he can do with his bat.

The senior right-hander has yet to pitch this season as he deals with a minor injury he suffered during the preseason, but he is finding other ways to help his team win.

The second baseman went 3 for 3 with a home run, two deep doubles and two RBIs to power the third-ranked Panthers past No. 5 Penn-Trafford, 4-0, in the Section 1-5A opener Tuesday on the new turf field in Harrison City.

“Our defense was really good again, and Brian (Pirone) helped set the tone,” Muraco said. “One we got through that first inning, we were on cruise control.”

Franklin Regional (3-0, 1-0) has allowed three runs all season, and the Warriors (1-1, 0-1) could not push any across as they left nine runners stranded and managed only four hits.

Penn-Trafford loaded the bases in the first, down 1-0, but the Panthers turned a 6-4-3 double play to squash the threat.

Pirone, a Seton Hill commit, tossed his first varsity complete game, striking out six and walking three, and leaned on an airtight defense behind him.

“Take away Muraco, and it’s a 1-0 game,” Penn-Trafford coach Dan Miller said. “It was a well-played game by both teams. Our guys played pretty darn well on defense, too. No disrespect to the other teams, but this is a matchup of the two best teams in the section.

“It stings right now, but we’ll have to forget it and get ready for tomorrow.”

With the WPIAL’s new back-to-back format for section games, which has teams playing a home-and-home series over two days, the Warriors will visit Franklin Regional on Wednesday at Haymaker Park in Murrysville.

The coaches hope that game has the crispness of the first one.

Neither team made an error, and Penn-Trafford turned three double plays. Franklin Regional junior right fielder Caden Smith had a highlight-reel catch to take away a hit from sophomore Dylan Grabowski with two on in the third.

“Defensively, I am so proud of our guys,” said Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler, a Penn-Trafford graduate. “Your pitcher is able to pitch with confidence when they are playing so well. And we had some really unselfish at-bats.”

Muraco’s long double scored senior Trevor Brncic to make it 1-0 in the first.

Muraco led off the fourth with a towering drive over the fence in center. The no-doubter staked the Panthers to a two-run advantage.

“I knew when I hit it (it was gone),” Muraco said. “I got the barrel on it and drove it.”

Senior Luke Treloar, a Cal (Pa.) commit, made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly to score junior Jack Bridges, who singled, stole second and went to third on a balk.

Treloar later doubled.

Junior Thomas Nicely grounded back to the pitcher, but Muraco raced home to make it 4-0. Muraco doubled and moved to third on another groundout.

Penn-Trafford had runners at first and third in the third but could not capitalize.

Penn-Trafford, the WPIAL Class 6A runner-up in 2019, had a runner at second with two outs in the home half of the seventh, but Pirone got senior Zach Hoffman to hit a low liner to center. Junior Jordan Suvak made a sliding catch to end it.

“After the first inning, I got the fastball working,” Pirone said. “And I was able to use my curve ball going today. Our defense played great, and that really put me at ease.”

Hoffman and sophomore Peyton Bigler each doubled for the Warriors.

Both teams had only played in one-run games before they met Tuesday. Franklin Regional beat Hempfield, 3-2, and Connellsville, 1-0. Penn-Trafford had a 4-3 walk-off victory over Connellsville.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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