Franklin rallies past Freeport on walk-off single in PIAA 1st round

Monday, June 3, 2019 | 8:13 PM

The Freeport baseball team was no stranger to close games, especially in this year’s postseason.

All three of the Yellowjackets’ games in the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs were decided by two runs or less, and both victories came in the form of one-run shutouts.

But on Monday, in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs, District 10 champion Franklin was the team to record a close victory, and it came in dramatic fashion.

Connor Rakow singled with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh as Franklin rallied for a 3-2 victory.

After the game, emotion showed in the eyes and in the voice of Freeport coach Ed Carr.

“I told the guys I loved them,” Carr said. “They left everything on the field. They took one of the top teams in the state, if not the top team, to the last strike.”

Freeport saw its season come to a sudden end at 15-7, while Franklin (22-1) won its 21st game in a row and advanced to the state quarterfinals where it will take on the winner of Steel Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola on Thursday at a site and time to be determined.

“In these games, everybody’s good, and you’re going to see good pitching and good hitters,” Franklin coach Brian Schmidt said.

“Anything can happen in the state playoffs. I’ve been in (the state quarterfinals) before, five years ago, and we hung with a team that ended up taking second in the state. I’ll take those experiences and talk with the guys. We feel confident going up against anybody.”

Rakow came on to pitch in the top of the seventh with two outs and Freeport runners on second and third. He got the final out to keep the game at 2-1 in favor of the Yellowjackets.

In the bottom of the seventh, Kolton Bonfi delivered a one-out single off Freeport starter Jarrett Heilman and moved to second on a groundout.

Zach Taylor then worked a walk against Heilman, which put Heilman past his pitch limit for the game.

Joe Hotalski came on for the Yellowjackets and induced Tyus Wood into a grounder to Zach Allen at short. Allen came up with the ball and threw to third, but Dale Kinch, pinch running for Bonfi, beat the throw, and the bases were loaded.

“It was a tough play for Zach,” Carr said. “You’re playing the whole game at third and then you move over. The ball was in the hole, and he went with where he though he had a play, and I can’t question him on that. It came down to effort, and our guys gave 100 percent effort today.”

Rakow then delivered his single to right to score both Kinch and Taylor to end the game. He finished with a game-high three hits.

“Connor is always calm and collected, even when he came on to get that out with runners on second and third,” Schmidt said. “No situation is too big for him.”

Both starters pitched into the seventh.

Franklin’s Ian Haynes remains at 9-0 on the season. He got the no decision as he gave up seven hits and one walk while striking out nine.

Heilman suffered only his second loss of the season with nine victories to his credit. He gave up six hits, walked one and struck out four.

Freeport struck first in the second inning.

With one out, Heilman doubled to right. Courtesy runner Brayden King advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a throwing error by the Franklin catcher.

After a couple of scoring chances early, Franklin broke through with an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth.

Knights first baseman Austin Rhoads reached on an error with one out, stole second and came home on a two-out single from Haynes.

Freeport came right back in the top of the fifth.

Garrett Ben led off the frame with a single, and courtesy runner Alec Asti advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Bradyn Clark.

With two outs, Austin Kepes hit a ball that didn’t leave the infield, but he reached with a single and Asti came home with the go-ahead run.

A scary moment in the bottom of the third took Freeport starting first baseman Matt Mitchell out of the game.

Mitchell chased after a foul ball off the bat of Franklin’s Carson Wible. While looking to the sky to see where the ball was, he crashed hard into the fence down the right field line.

He left the game but was able to walk off the field under his own power. Carr said he will be OK.

“My hat’s off to Franklin,” Carr said. “They’ve lost only one game all year, and there’s a reason for that. They are well-coached. They earned everything. It’s a good baseball team, and I hope they go far.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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