Franklin Regional beats West Allegheny on clutch Luke Williams hit in Class 5A 3rd-place game

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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | 10:19 PM


Sometimes missed opportunities can come back and haunt a team.

But Franklin Regional didn’t allow early game troubles to keep it from pulling out a late-game win.

Luke Williams hit a two-run double with one out in the top of the seventh inning, and Franklin Regional rallied to defeat West Allegheny, 3-2, on Wednesday in the WPIAL Class 5A third-place game at Washington & Jefferson’s Ross Memorial Park.

The victory puts the Panthers (15-8) in the PIAA playoffs, which begin Monday, against District 6 champion Hollidaysburg, which defeated Obama Academy, 5-1.

Both teams scored a run in the first inning. Blake Bertucci’s groundout scored winning pitcher Max Bernadowski, who reached on an infield hit for the Panthers. Courtesy runner Teagan Tomei scored on a passed ball for West Alle­gheny.

The Panthers loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning, but a running blunder cost them a run.

“The boys picked me up in that situation,” Franklin Regional coach Bob Saddler said. “That baserunning mistake is on me. I should have sent N.J. Ramchandran on that play and didn’t. There was a baserunning blunder, and I own that 100 percent. The boys were resilient and competed to the end.”

West Allegheny also had a baserunning error in the fifth inning. Joah Buglak, who opened the inning with a double, tried to advance to third on a one-hopper to Bernadowski. Brock Cornell, the batter, tried to take second on the play and was thrown out.

“We didn’t deserve to win this game,” West Allegheny coach Bryan Cornell said. “We committed four errors and had basesrunning blunders. That’s not WA baseball.”

The Indians (17-5) took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning when Wil Gubba reached on a single, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly by Logan Lambert.

But the Panthers didn’t quit.

Chase Lemke reached on an error, one of four by the Indians, and advanced to third an out later on a hit-and-run single by Cole Brinker.

Bernadowski was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Williams followed with his two-run double.

“He threw me a high curveball for strike one, and I was looking for another curveball,” Williams said. “I knew I had to get at least one run in.”

Bernadowski allowed a lead-off hit in the bottom of the seventh inning but got the next three batters out to preserve the win. He allowed eight hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out five.

“Luke got the big hit,” Saddler said. “Chase did a great job getting to third, and Cole got a key hit.

“Max was a bulldog all year. He allowed eight hits, but he limited the damage. He commanded the zone, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He wanted the ball, and he’s a big reason why we’re advancing.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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