Expectations high for Franklin Regional baseball

Saturday, March 9, 2019 | 8:10 PM

Franklin Regional posted a solid 15-5 record last season with a young team.

The Panthers lost only two seniors to graduation and have a lot of returning talent this year.

Expectations are high.

“We have been focusing on pitching and hitting throughout the course of the offseason,” said Bob Saddler, FR’s veteran coach. “The team should be strong in all facets of the game as we are looking to improve upon last season.”

FR has advanced to the WPIAL playoffs four consecutive years and six of the past seven seasons.

The Panthers have lost in the quarterfinal round three years in a row.

FR finished second in Section 3-5A last season and received the sixth seed for the WPIAL playoffs. The Panthers lost 7-1 in the quarterfinals to No. 3 North Hills, which went on to capture the WPIAL championship.

Saddler said he expects the Panthers to compete for the section title.

“We aspire to get better each game and to play our best baseball at the end of the season,” Saddler said, “so that we can make a run during the WPIAL playoffs.”

FR rode a seven-game winning streak to end section play last season before falling to rival Penn-Trafford, 2-0. The Panthers, who defeated Montour, 5-2, in the WPIAL first round, won 11 of 12 games before their regular-season finale and posted a 12-2 section record.

Andrew Muraco, a sophomore pitcher/infielder, led the Panthers in RBIs (17), runs scored (16), hits (22) and doubles (4), and was second in batting average (.354) behind leader Michael Klingensmith (.378).

Klingensmith, a senior outfielder, also pitched 20 innings and finished with two wins and two saves.

Louie Kegerreis, a sophomore third baseman, hit. 305 with one homer, 16 RBIs and 12 runs scored.

Klingensmith was a second-team all-section selection, and Muraco and Kegerreis earned honorable mention recognition.

Senior outfielder Tommy Kegerreis missed last season but is back this year. He was a second-team all-section selection in 2017.

The FR infield should be solid with seniors Jake Williams at shortstop and Shane Sciorilli at second base. Williams had a .320 batting average last season. Sciorilli hit .308 with 12 RBIs and nine runs scored.

“Our expectations are very high, the highest they’ve been in a long time,” Williams said. “After only losing two seniors last year, we really think this is our year. If we play the way we can, we could be very tough to beat.”

Junior outfielder Zach Seaman batted .302 with 14 RBIs and 12 runs scored in 2018, and junior Bryce Harper is back behind the plate.

“(Harper) caught basically every inning last year, and shut down the run game,” Saddler said.

The pitching corps is anchored by senior Palmer Jackson, who was 6-0 with two saves a 1.47 ERA last season.

Senior outfielder Bronson Ianno and junior infielder Connor Helm also will be on the pitching staff. Ianno recorded three wins in 2018.

Other players looking to contribute include seniors David Baird (OF) and Matthew Fitzmaurice (IF), and sophomore Tim Quinn (1B). Fitzmaurice is a corner infielder.

Tom Nicely, a catcher/first baseman, is a top freshman prospect in the program.

“(Nicely) will be given the opportunity to contribute innings at the varsity level at both catcher and first base,” said Saddler, in his ninth season as coach.

FR is a member of Section 1-5A this year, along with Armstrong, Fox Chapel, Gateway, Kiski, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills.

Fox Chapel and Gateway are going to be the teams to beat,” Williams said.

The Panthers regularly conduct spring training at Vero Beach, Fla., and will do so again this year from March 21-27.


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