Franklin Regional baseball adds to win streak, knocks Kiski Area from playoffs

Monday, May 9, 2022 | 8:56 PM

Jack Bridges had been out of the Franklin Regional baseball lineup since early April with an elbow injury.

Clearly, the senior was glad to be back Monday.

He and his teammates elbowed Kiski Area from the playoff race.

Bridges and senior teammate Ryan DalCanton both went 3 for 4 — with Bridges driving in three runs — and senior Caden Smith pitched a complete game as the Panthers won 10-3 in the Section 1-5A finale at Haymaker Park in Murrysville.

The playoff-bound and defending champion Panthers (10-4, 7-3) have won six straight since being swept by section champion Latrobe on April 12.

“I have been hitting in the cage and off a tee, preparing as much as I could,” said Bridges, who was the designated hitter and batted ninth. “I was hoping it would carry over.”

Kiski Area (4-11, 2-8) was hoping to win to clinch a playoff spot and send all six teams from the section to the postseason. But the Panthers stayed hot and sent the Cavaliers home disappointed.

“I was happy with the way our kids battled, but you’re not going to get any freebies from (Franklin Regional),” Kiski Area coach Aaron Albert said. “There are no easy spots in their lineup. Hats off to them.”

It was a 1-1 game in the third when Franklin Regional stepped in front to stay. The Panthers scored six runs after there were two outs.

Junior first baseman Anthony Alesi, who went 2 for 4, and DalCanton had RBI singles. A bases-loaded walk after a pitching change made it 4-1.

Bridges, the No. 9 hitter, then ripped a two-run single for a 6-1 advantage.

“Our offense had a nice day, and I can’t say enough about Caden and his leadership on the mound,” Panthers coach Bobby Saddler said. “He hadn’t pitched much lately but was really good today.”

Smith, who allowed seven hits, six of which were singles, struck out nine and and walked two.

“I am glad he’s graduating,” Albert said. “He’s killed us in baseball, football and basketball.”

After senior Owen Werkheiser drove in a run with a single for the Cavaliers in the fourth, the Panthers tacked on two more in the fifth. Bridges delivered a run-scoring single, and senior Jordan Suvak added a sacrifice fly for an 8-2 score.

DalCanton doubled and scored in the inning.

“Jack executed extremely well,” Saddler said. “He was swinging well in the cage, and it transitioned over.”

DalCanton also continued his solid hitting.

“He has worked extremely hard to get to this position,” Saddler said.

Said Bridges of DalCanton: “He has been on a tear.”

Sophomore Nate Witt had a sacrifice fly for Kiski Area in the sixth, but Alesi and DalCanton added RBIs to make it 10-3 after Franklin Regional opened the inning with two walks.

Junior Jake Bucci hit a solo home run off the scoreboard in the second for Kiski Area.

Both teams have had their share of close games. Three of Franklin Regional’s losses are by one run, and Kiski Area lost four extra-inning games.

Franklin Regional earned a sweep of the Cavaliers but needed a ninth-inning homer from Jordan Suvak to win, 13-11, last Tuesday. Rainy weather and poor field conditions forced the rematch to be postponed multiple times.

“We’re competitive in every game,” Saddler said. “That’s a good thing.”

Kiski Area has dropped nine of 10 and four straight.

“We have two regular seniors, so we’re a young team,” Albert said. “All the kids who have been in all of these extra-inning games will bring that experience back and hopefully it pays off next year.”

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

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