Franklin Regional baseball team outlasts Kiski Area in extra innings

Tuesday, May 3, 2022 | 8:25 PM

Kiski Area was on the brink of a big, Section 1-5A upset Tuesday after scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh to send the game into extra innings.

The Cavaliers had the bases loaded and none out in the eighth, but Franklin Regional senior Kyle Morgan pitched out of the jam, setting the stage for Jordan Suvak’s two-run homer in the ninth, resulting in a wild 13-11 victory for the Panthers.

Franklin Regional, which already had clinched a playoff berth, improved 6-3 in the section, 9-4 overall.

The teams meet again in a makeup game at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Murrysville’s Haymaker Park. Kiski Area (4-10, 2-7) needs a victory to tie McKeesport and Gateway for fourth place.

If that occurs, all three teams would be tied at 3-7. Since all three teams split the season series against each other, all three would go to the WPIAL playoffs.

“You had two teams that didn’t want to lose and continued to battle throughout the course of the game,” Panthers coach Bob Saddler said. “Down 11-7 entering the bottom of the seventh, Kiski Area did a great job battling back. It would have been very easy for our boys to be deflated after that, but they were resilient and we were able to prevail today.”

The Cavaliers are 0-4 in extra inning games this year.

Franklin Regional looked like it had a solid 11-7 lead after scoring twice in the sixth. But junior Lebryn Smith blasted a three-run homer to bring Kiski Area to within 11-10. After Dom DeNinno reached on an error, Jake Smith was hit in his elbow pad. The home plate umpire called the pitch a ball. Following a conference with the base umpire, Smith was awarded first base. Jacob Bucci then blasted a double to deep right center, scoring DiNinno to tie the score. Kiski Area coach Aaron Albert held Jake Smith up at third.

“I sent him once against Gateway, and he got thrown out,” Albert said. “That flashed through my head.”

The Cavaliers looked poised to win it in the eighth.

Nate Witt led off with a single, and Blake Fritz bunted. Panthers third baseman Blake Bertucci threw the ball into center field, allowing Witt to take third. Saddler ordered Connor Flemm to be walked, which loaded the bases.

The strategy paid off as Lebryn Smith bounced to Caden Smith, who got the forceout at home. DiNinno popped out to Morgan, who then struck out Mason Ross.

“I just had to have some confidence out there on the mound,” Morgan said. “I was trying to trust all my pitches and get the job done.”

In the ninth, Max Bernadowski singled to deep short, and Suvak, who pitched the first five innings for Franklin Regional, hit a drive to deep left center to give the Panthers their final margin.

“It was a same, normal at-bat,” Suvak said. “I had it once against Penn-Trafford and once against Latrobe. Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful and I was due. I just went up there, saw the ball, took a swing on it and slapped it over the fence.”

Said Albert: “I just have just one senior. The rest are juniors and sophomores. To be down four runs in the seventh and come back, you can’t ask for anything more. Maybe one more hit in the eighth.”

For Franklin, Caden Smith had two triples, a double and two singles. Ryan DalCanton had a double and two singles.

For Kiski Area, Bucci had a home run, double and a single, and Ross had a double and two singles.

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