Franklin Regional baseball team sets new goals as PIAA playoffs begin Monday

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Friday, June 4, 2021 | 8:24 PM


This isn’t the Franklin Regional baseball team’s first foray into the PIAA playoffs.

The 2019 team, which some of the current players were part of, reached the quarterfinals before losing to Lampeter-Strasburg.

The Panthers are 3-4 all-time in the PIAA playoffs, 3-1 in the opening round. The 2019 team defeated Erie Cathedral Prep, 13-4.

The three-time WPIAL champions open the PIAA Class 5A playoffs at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Latrobe against the fourth-place finisher from the WPIAL, West Allegheny.

The Panthers are coming off a thrilling 2-1 victory against Bethel Park in the WPIAL finals, when Andrew Muraco had a walk-off single.

The hit made pitcher Brian Pirone a winner. The Seton Hill commit tossed a three-hitter and allowed only an unearned run.

“To win a WPIAL title, it lets you know you’re an elite team,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said. “We knew that, but this legitimizes it.”

Now Saddler and the team are looking forward to PIAA playoffs.

“We gave the kids off a day, and then we got back at it,” Saddler said. “These guys set preseason goals like a WPIAL championship. I know now they are going want a little bit more, and that’s OK with me for them to be greedy.”

Pirone’s approach against Bethel Park was to throw his breaking ball for strikes and be aggressive.

Now Saddler has a decision to make on Monday, start Pirone and Luke Treloar, a Cal (Pa.) commit. Saddler called his two hurlers 1A and 1B.

“I have confidence in both,” Saddler said.

Muraco said he took personally when Bethel Park decided to walk Louie Kegerreis ahead of him in the bottom of the seventh inning of the WPIAL title game. After fighting off numerous pitches, Muraco jumped on a changeup and drove in over center fielder Eric Chalus’ head.

“Now our focus is on the states,” Muraco said.

West Allegheny enters the state tournament fresh off two one-run loses: 1-0 to Bethel Park in the semifinals and 2-1 to Peters Township in the third-place game.

Still, Saddler knows West Allegheny is a dangerous team.

The Indians are no stranger to the PIAA playoffs, having gone 8-7 in previous trips. They lost to Lampeter-Strasburg, 1-0, in the 1994 Class AA finals and to Marple Newtown, 1-0, in the 2018 Class 5A semifinals.

West Allegheny’s Adam Crawford had a four-hit game, which included a double, to help the Indians to a 14-1 victory against Hampton. Devin Zirwas was 2 for 4 with three RBIs in that game.

Pitcher Cole Egan has a no-hitter this season.

The winner will face the winner of the Peters Township/Central Mountain game Thursday.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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