Franklin Regional baseball revamps rotation in repeat bid

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Thursday, April 7, 2022 | 1:19 PM


By and large, Franklin Regional had gaps to fill on its WPIAL Class 5A championship baseball team.

But coach Bobby Saddler did not think it would take long for replacements to emerge, particularly in the pitching rotation.

He was right.

The search for quality pitching in Murrysville is over — at least for now.

While the new arms saw minimal action last season, they are meshing well and finding the strike zone as the Panthers chase a repeat.

“Our identity in our minds with the pitchers is that we are confident in our guys,” Saddler said. “They can all go out and pound the strike zone and give us a chance to win.”

Seniors Caden Smith, Jordan Suvak and Kyle Morgan have occupied the mound so far for the Panthers (4-2, 1-1), who opened the season with three games in Vero Beach, Fla.

They were ranked No. 2 in WPIAL 5A by TribLive HSSN.

Smith and Suvak were regular position players last year, sharing an outfield with Smith in right and Suvak in center.

Both made starts in Florida, with Smith earning a win in a 14-1 victory over West Jessamine (Ky.).

Suvak, who recovered well from a hand injury during basketball season, also worked five-plus innings and earned a win as the Panthers defeated Henry Clay (Ky.), 6-5.

Morgan, the left-hander of the trio, also has a win (12-5 over Connellsville).

Smith was a hard-luck loser in a 4-3 setback against Penn-Trafford in the Section 1 opener. He gave up four hits before handing the ball to Morgan. Suvak went six innings — he was pulled with 94 pitches — in a 5-0 win over Penn-Trafford.

“It’s all about (senior) catcher Tom Nicely behind the plate,” Suvak said. “He makes all the calls. I don’t shake him off a lot because he knows what he is doing back there. He is really helping us adjust to pitching.”

Nicely said it is a pleasure to catch for the new arms.

“Every time they take the mound, they give us a chance to win,” Nicely said.

Smith, a three-sport standout (football, basketball), is new to pitching but, just like in everything else he tries, he tends to look the part.

He said the players accepted their roles last season and it certainly worked out. They have the rings to prove it. But now they’ve accepted new roles on the mound.

“We knew the guys we had were going to get the job done,” Smith said. “We knew we could help the team in other ways.”

The Panthers relied heavily on Brian Pirone, now at Seton Hill, and Luke Treloar (Cal (Pa.)) to produce quality starts to back a potent offense.

Even Andrew Muraco, a Coastal Carolina freshman, was a key pitcher before becoming an everyday infielder.

The bullpen still is a work in progress and will be as relief situations emerge. How deep the staff can go remains to be seen.

Sophomore Blake Bertucci has seen some relief work.

“I know these guys can fill their shoes,” Saddler said. “I don’t think our staff is any less than what it was. The guys we have throwing now just needed a chance.”

Smith said he texts with and talks to Pirone and Treloar regularly.

“I always talk to them about what they did and how they pitched,” Smith said. “And coach Saddler pitched, so I like to talk to him, too.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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