Franklin Regional baseball works to ‘flush’ late-season loss

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Saturday, May 22, 2021 | 11:01 AM


For Franklin Regional baseball coach Bobby Saddler and his players, it must have been like having the theme from “Psycho” pierce their ears.

Ree, ree, ree.

The Panthers’ first loss of the season hit hard, like a stabbing pain.

Norwin, the third-ranked team in Class 6A at the time, roughed up the 5A No. 1 Panthers, 18-2, in four innings in a late-season playoff tune-up that was more anticlimactic than exciting.

What the Panthers (14-1) did after the loss was to determine how long their season would last. They quickly tried to forget the defeat and shifted focus to the playoffs.

“We have to flush it,” Panthers senior Andrew Muraco said. “That’s all there is to it. It’s humbling, but we have to move on.”

As it turned out, the loss didn’t hurt them because they earned the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs. They opened against Thomas Jefferson in the first round and scored a 14-3 win.

Louie Kegerreis was 5 for 5 with a three-run home run. Anthony Alesi also homered. Brian Pirone earned the win on the mound.

Franklin Regional blanked North Catholic the day after the Norwin loss, 5-0.

The Panthers were the last undefeated team in the WPIAL to lose. They know going undefeated in the playoffs means more than the regular season.

A nine-run fourth for Norwin was the crooked number that capped to the mercy-ruled loss.

It was the Panthers’ worst loss since falling to Laurel Highlands, 14-0, in 2018. They hadn’t lost by 16 runs since a 22-6 setback against Hempfield in 2008.

After allowing 23 runs in 14 games, Franklin Regional yielded 18 to one team. The team doesn’t want to experience that helpless feeling again.

Teams schedule the best competition out of section to get them sharper for the postseason. Franklin Regional did not back away from the challenge of playing the Knights.

The Panthers lapped the field to win the Section 1 title by a whopping four games (10-0).

So, they had a bad day. The best teams have short memories.

“We didn’t hide behind our undefeated record,” Saddler said. “If you’re going to be an elite team you have to play at an elite level. I didn’t put our guys in the right situations to be successful (against Norwin). It’s on me.”

Still, it’s just one game. And as the old adage goes, “maybe they needed a loss.”

“We know we can learn from this,” Saddler said. “It’s not who we are and the kids know that. It’s an anomaly. We’ll be all right.”

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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