Franklin Regional baseball set goals beyond WPIAL playoffs

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Sunday, March 21, 2021 | 6:34 PM


Just about every WPIAL team starts a season with goals of winning section and WPIAL titles. What’s the point if that is not the case, right?

But only a select few have the talent to change those goals from words into actions; to follow them through to a finish.

Count the Franklin Regional baseball team among that group.

“Our expectations are the same (as 2020),” 10th-year coach Bobby Saddler said. “We’re basically where we were two years ago, but there has to be a sense of urgency with this year. We need to be ready for the biggest moments because it can all end with one bad play in one game.”

Saddler referenced a tough stretch in a WPIAL Class 5A semifinal in 2019 when the Panthers fell to Laurel Highlands, 4-1. They went on to reach the PIAA quarterfinals — their first go-round in the state postseason in 18 years — and finished 19-3.

A team primed to make another deep run last year had their hopes dashed when the 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, with only three seniors gone from that team, the Panthers again have the look of a contender.

“Overall, we’re a well-balanced team,” Saddler said. “We should hit the ball, and we have pitching. But the pitching is only as good as the defense behind it. The 2019 team set the bar high offensively.”

Two senior pitchers to watch are Andrew Muraco and Brian Pirone. Muraco is a Coastal Carolina commit, and Pirone will play at Seton Hill.

“The expectations are the same if not higher,” said Muraco, who went 7-1 with a 1.97 ERA as a sophomore. “We’re going to be pretty good. We’ll have the arms and the bats, too. It’s good to be back. It’s been two years since I played a high school game.”

Saddler said Pirone has “a cannon arm.”

“He already is hitting 91 (mph),” the coach said.

Muraco also is a shortstop. Corner infielders looking to have big senior seasons are third baseman Louis Kegerreis and first baseman Tim Quinn.

Kegerreis hit .430 with 22 RBIs two years ago. He plans to take a gap year before beginning college baseball.

Quinn is a Mercyhurst commit.

“We want to show the WPIAL we’re here to win it,” Quinn said. “If we lose it’s because we beat ourselves.”

Junior catcher Thomas Nicely also figures into the mix again after hitting .300 and driving in 15 as a freshman designated hitter.

Without a trip to Florida like it had two years ago, the Panthers won’t have a ton of exhibition games to toggle lineups.

“Our 6, 7, 8 and 9 guys we’re still filling in,” Saddler said. “We’re going to take a good hard look over the next five games and see how they handle situations.”

Senior Luke Treloar also figures into the pitching staff. He is a Cal (Pa.) commit.

Other juniors looking to contribute in the lineup are Jordan Suvak and three-sport athlete Caden Smith.

A number of other players are competing for time at various positions, including seniors Chris Pagano, Trevor Brncic and Nolan Williams; juniors Jake Bridges, Ryan Dalcanton and Kyle Morgan; sophomores Daniel Luko and Anthony Alesi; and freshman Owen Sinclair.

Saddler said even though spring sports shift outdoors, teams need to remain proactive with covid protocols. His players wore masks during a recent hitting session in the cages at Haymaker Park in Murrysville.

“The last thing you want is a shutdown,” he said. “You see the problems (covid) caused for other sports. But baseball, in particular, could really be affected with pitching. You get a case and you’re down 14 days. That’s a long time in baseball. You had better have a deep (rotation).”

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

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