Franklin Regional baseball team getting strong hitting, pitching in fast start

Thursday, March 30, 2023 | 5:45 PM

Junior Blake Bertucci and his fellow Franklin Regional baseball pitchers are playing with less stress these days.

With the offense giving them leads to work with, their job is less complex. It comes down to limiting the damage, getting off the field and allowing the hitters to get back to work.

“We’ve put up big numbers at the plate, which gives our pitchers, including myself, confidence — and some leisure — when we’re pitching,” Bertucci said.

Franklin Regional had one of the best starts in the WPIAL, building early momentum with a “spring training” trip to Florida. The Panthers won three times there, then came home to win twice more for a 6-0 record.

“This is an extremely hard-working group, and they show up every day with a desire to get better,” coach Bobby Saddler said. “They are extremely competitive and unselfish, always looking at what’s best for the team.”

Wins in Florida came against two schools from Missouri and one from the WPIAL.

The Panthers beat St. Louis Priory School (Mo.), 17-7; North Catholic, 13-7; and Westminster Christian (Mo.), 9-1.

Senior Daniel Luko and freshman Lucas Williams doubled in the five-inning opener against St. Louis.

Against North Catholic, senior Alex Alesi, junior Owen Sinclair and Williams had three hits each, with Williams knocking in six runs.

Sophomore Brady Yarabinetz had three hits, and junior Max Bernadowski had three RBIs and was the winning pitcher against Westminster Christian.

A 9-3 victory followed when the Panthers returned to their home state, and junior Cole Brinker and Alesi drove in a pair each in that victory.

In a 5-3 win over Penn Hills in the Section 1-5A opener, Yarabrinetz homered and drove in three, and Bertucci struck out nine to earn the victory.

Franklin Regional rarely has trailed, but when it has, the recoil has been quick.

“The thing that has impressed me most is the energy we bring and how we are able to get behind our guys when things go south,” Bertucci said.

Bernadowski struck out eight and gave up three hits, Bertucci scored three times and Luko drove in a pair in a 10-1 win over Penn Hills for a section sweep.

Five Panthers were hitting .400 or better, with Luko at .500, Bertucci .462, Brinker .444 and Yarabrinetz .429.

Williams leads in RBIs with eight.

Saddler does not reveal many specifics when talking about individual players, particularly when it comes to what is expected from the Panthers in the preseason. He often speaks team.

Generalities or otherwise, his goals do not change.

“Our expectations for this season are to continue to get better every day and compete every game,” he said. “Competing for a section title is something that we aspire to do each season, and this year is no different.”

WPIAL Class 5A champions in 2021, the Panthers have high standards in the program. There is a serious, business-like tone around the Panthers, but players also try to enjoy each moment.

Don’t let the demeanor fool you. The Panthers like to have a good time.

“We have a starting lineup of all different grades, and we all treat each other like brothers and will fight till the end,” Bertucci said. “We definitely have a loose play style. We like to have fun, but we know as soon as we go out to the field, we all have one job and one goal: to win.”

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


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