Franklin Regional baseball team looks back on memorable season

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Saturday, June 19, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler did not ride the team bus, instead driving separately to what turned out to be his team’s final baseball game of the 2021 season.

He had to transport canopies in his pick-up truck.

The coach watched as the Panthers’ caravan pulled out of the lot at Latrobe and disappeared into darkness. The bus set out for a long, subdued ride back to Murrysville.

Saddler was as sad to see his team go as he was disappointed the season was finished after a 6-4 loss to West Allegheny in the PIAA Class 5A first round.

The Panthers, fresh off their third WPIAL championship and first in 20 years, called it a year at 19-2.

“You get this far in the state playoffs, and it can go either way,” Saddler said. “It hurts, but our guys know how great of a season they had. Winning a WPIAL title means so much to them.”

Saddler will part ways with an uber-talented eight-senior class that included — around the horn, we go — first baseman Timmy Quinn, second baseman Andrew Muraco, shortstop Louis Kegerreis, pitchers Brian Pirone and Luke Treloar.

Each of those players, with the exception of Kegerreis who is taking a gap year, is committed to play in college. Muraco is a Coastal Carolina commit. Quinn is headed to Mercyhurst, Pirone to Seton Hill and Treloar to Cal (Pa.). The latter three could see each other a lot in the PSAC.

The core is one of the best the program has seen, and it has the results to prove it.

But while championships are the end goal, building team chemistry is at the top of Saddler’s priority list. He hopes next year’s team can bond the way this group did.

“We built a family atmosphere here, and that is more important than any medals we can win,” the coach said.

Returning players who will look to keep the Panthers among the 5A elite include outfielder Caden Smith, infielder Jack Bridges, leadoff man and outfielder Jordan Suvak and catcher Thomas Nicely. All of those players are juniors.

Sophomores Anthony Alesi and Daniel Luko also saw varsity time.

“To win a WPIAL championship, 19 games, that is all great,” Saddler said. “But we built a team bond, and it is unbreakable. It will last forever, and they can tell their kids about it.”

It remains to be seen if the team’s unofficial mascot and good luck charm will be back as well.

“Rafael” might be scaring away more than the bomb-dropping geese at Haymaker Park in 2022.

A life-sized coyote statue by that name looked on from the dugout in numerous games this season. If the unofficial mascot could bat, he might hit, well, cleanup for the Panthers.

“We had geese pooping on our field (at Haymaker Park), so someone said to try (the coyote) to get rid of them,” Saddler said. “We were cleaning up poop all the time. It was all over the place.”

No question, picking up the pieces after a memorable run was the toughest part for the Panthers.

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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