Franklin Regional baseball survives early scare, mows down Peters Township to reach 5A finals

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021 | 8:48 PM


Franklin Regional starting pitcher Brian Pirone flirted with danger for two innings Tuesday as the Panthers took on Peters Township in the WPIAL Class 5A baseball semifinals.

The No. 13 Indians (10-11) got to the right-hander for a run in the first inning and loaded the bases in the first two innings, but Pirone worked his way out of both jams and never looked back.

He didn’t allow another hit the rest of the way and the No. 1 Panthers (18-1) gave him nine runs of support, including a Caden Smith 3-run home run en route to a 9-1 win.

“After our offense put up four runs in two innings, I knew we weren’t going to lose anymore,” Pirone said after tossing six innings of two-hit ball and striking out five while walking three. “I relaxed, pitched with a lead, and Tom (Nicely) called a heck of a game behind the plate.”

The Panthers will play No. 2 Bethel Park in the WPIAL Class 5A championship game at Wild Things Park on June 1 or 2.

After Pirone hit Peters Township’s Jack Natili in the first inning and walked Mac Ciocco, Drew Ripepi drove in Natili to get the scoring started.

Pirone struck out Tucker Ferris to end the inning, and then the Franklin Regional bats took over.

Jordan Suvak, who went 2 for 3, led off the bottom half of the first with a ground-rule double. Two batters later, Suva scored on an Andrew Muraco ground-rule double.

Muraco scored on a sacrifice fly by Smith as the Panthers took a 2-1 lead.

The Indians tried to battle back in the second and loaded the bases with two outs, but Pirone induced a ground out to second base to end the inning.

“We could’ve gotten a couple more runs there, then things might’ve been a little different,” Peters Township coach Rocky Plassio said. “We relinquished the lead, then they finished it off. So they deserve a lot of credit.”

Louie Kegerreis drove in two more runs in the second inning with a two-RBI double after the Indians intentionally walked Suvak to get to him.

Tucker Ferris took over on the mound for Peters Township in the third inning and kept the Panthers bats quiet for two innings, but Franklin Regional exploded for five runs in the fifth to put it away.

Smith, who went 1 for 2 with four RBIs, highlighted the inning with his three-run home run to put the game out of reach.

“I think that is a snapshot of our season,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said. “Playing sound defense, hitting the baseball, having the approach and executing the approach at the plate like we did, then Brian on the mound. He had three pitches going today, and when he has that stuff, he’s electric.”

With the game out of reach, Luke Treloar finished it off for Franklin Regional with a clean seventh inning and one strikeout.

Four pitchers took the hill for the Indians, but Ripepi picked up the loss after pitching two innings and allowing five hits and four runs.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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