Franklin Regional gets walk-off win over Bethel Park in Class 5A title game

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021 | 7:13 PM


Andrew Muraco took it personally when Bethel Park coach Pat Zehnder decided to intentionally walk Louie Kegerreis with a runner on second base in the bottom of the seventh inning to get to him in the WPIAL Class 5A championship.

So the Franklin Regional senior made Bethel Park pay. He singled home Luke Treloar, and the Panthers won 2-1 on Tuesday at Wild Things Park in Washington.

It is the third WPIAL baseball title for Franklin Regional, the last coming in 2001. The Panthers (19-1) also won in 1997. This was Bethel Park’s 10th championship appearance. They won in 1985 and ’87.

Treloar opened the seventh with an infield hit and moved to second on a groundout. Then with two outs, Kegerreis, who had two hits, was walked.

Muraco fouled off a couple of pitches before launching a drive over center fielder Eric Chalus’ head for the walk-off win.

“I knew I was the best man for that spot,” Muraco said. “You have to believe, and you have to come through. Louis is really hot at the plate right now, but there was nobody better than me. I came through.

“It’s an awesome feeling. It’s a surreal feeling. I wasn’t surprised it went so far when I hit it. It was a changeup, and I got it good.”

Franklin Regional pitcher Brian Pirone, who allowed three hits and an unearned run in the top of the seventh inning, was confident Muraco would come through.

“My teammates always pick me up,” Pirone said. “No matter what predicament we’re in, we always come through at the end.”

And Pirone went through many emotions in the seventh inning after Bethel Park tied the score.

“I went from panicking to being relieved in about five minutes,” Pirone said. “It was the best feeling when he hit it. As soon as they walked Louie, I knew the game was over.”

Franklin Regional scored first in the bottom of the fourth when Timmy Quinn doubled down the left-field line to begin the inning. He scored when Caden Smith’s sacrifice bunt was thrown away by pitcher Eric Chalus, allowing Smith to reach second.

But Chalus, a Kent State commit, worked out of trouble, stranding Smith at third base by fanning the final two batters.

Bethel Park got a leadoff single from John Chalus in the sixth inning, but Pirone induced three groundouts to end the potential threat.

“Brian has been our guy,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said. “He’s been just an ace, and we are very confident in Luke Treloar, too. He’s another ace.

“Brian’s had his stuff the last couple of games. He was able to attack hitters and get ahead in the count. I feel very comfortable with Brian when he has his pitches going.”

Franklin Regional threatened to increase its lead in the sixth inning when Smith tripled to right-center with one out. Thomas Nicely reached on an error, putting runners on the corners. But Eric Chalus got a strikeout-and-caught-stealing double play to end the threat.

Bethel Park (18-4) tied the score in the top of the seventh inning, scoring an unearned run on a two-strike, two-out hit by pinch hitter Jack Sackett to score David Kessler, who reached on an error.

“It’s the story of our year,” Zehnder said. “The guys refuse to give in. They keep grinding. They keep battling, and they usually find a way to pull it out. I thought we were going to take the momentum away from Franklin Regional by scoring with two outs and two strikes.

“But you have to give Franklin Regional credit. They are such a sound team offensively, defensively and on the mound. They don’t have a weak area in them.”

Pirone, a Seton Hill commit, struck out five and walked none. Chalus allowed five hits over six innings. He struck out eight. Sophomore Evan Holewinski took the loss in relief.

“It means a ton for me and the players,” Saddler said about winning the title. “All their hard work, everything they’ve done and the culture they built here at Franklin Regional. That’s something we knew we had, but this legitimizes everything that we worked for. To be a WPIAL champion, it’s something special and lets you know you’re an elite team.”

Watch the video stream archive of this game on Trib HSSN.

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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