Big inning carries Penn-Trafford past Franklin Regional to WPIAL championship game

Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | 9:39 PM

This game came down to which team took advantage of its opportunities.

Penn-Trafford did, and Franklin Regional did not.

After preventing Franklin Regional from tying the score in the bottom of the third inning, Penn-Trafford took advantage of a Panthers miscue and scored six unearned runs to break open a tight contest Tuesday in a WPIAL Class 5A semifinal at Gateway.

Jason Sabol cracked a three-run home in the six-run fourth inning, Brayden Stone, who also had three RBIs, smacked a two-run triple, and Penn-Trafford rolled to a 10-3 victory.

The win puts the Warriors in the WPIAL Class 5A championship game at Wild Things Park in Washington on a date and time to be determined. They will face the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Bethel Park and West Allegheny.

Franklin Regional defeated Penn-Trafford twice in section play, but the Warriors’ quick start allowed them to play with the lead.

No. 7 Penn-Trafford (19-3) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Ethan Septak’s two-run single that scored Tyler Freas and Chuck Fontana. Septak homered in Monday’s win against Fox Chapel.

“We hit the ball, and we put the pressure on their defense,” Penn-Trafford coach Lou Cortazzo said. “You play a little relaxed when you play with the lead opposed to playing from behind. That’s what we did, we played with the lead and never let go.

”We need to clean up a few errors, but other than that, we played a phenomenal game.”

Franklin Regional cut the deficit to 2-1 in the third inning on Cole Brinker’s single. The Panthers had a chance to tie or take the lead after Owen Sinclair, who reached on an error, and Brinker advanced to second and third on a wild pitch with no outs.

But Penn-Trafford sophomore pitcher Zach Feldman retired the next three batters on two infield popouts and a flyout to center field.

“Our pitchers have done it all year long,” Cortazzo said. “We don’t get tight. They are focused. With runners in scoring position, I have faith in them. I knew what they can do.”

Feldman said the key was throwing strikes.

“I trust my defense,” Feldman said. “They are the best in the WPIAL.”

Penn-Trafford looked like it would go quietly in the top of the fourth inning when pitcher N.J Ramchandran retired the first two batters.

But Carmen Metcalfe’s grounder to third was mishandled, and the Warriors capitalized.

Logan Matrisch followed with a book-rule double to right-center as the ball bounced over the fence. Brayden Stone then hit a shot to center that bounced over Chase Lemke’s head for a two-run triple to make it 4-1.

Freas then singled home Stone for a 5-1 lead and Fontana, who walked four times during the game, drew his second free pass. Sabol then drilled a shot over the right-center fence for an 8-1 lead.

“They did a nice job capitalizing on their opportunities,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said. “We didn’t execute our best. We battled, but we couldn’t get out of that inning. We just fell short.”

No. 6 Franklin Regional scored an unearned run in the fourth inning, but the Warriors squeezed home two runs in the fifth inning to make it 10-2.

The Panthers (14-8), who will play in the third-place game, added another run in the sixth inning on a Sinclair flyout.

“They have a heck of a team,” Saddler said. “They jumped out early and were able to protect the lead. Tip your cap to Feldman. He did a good job, and they had a nice approach at the plate.

“We’re still alive for the state playoffs. We’ll be ready for the next opportunity.”

Feldman, Jon Lovre and Hunter Brown combined to allow four hits.

Freas was the only Warrior with two hits.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at

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