Franklin Regional hits on all cylinders in win over North Hills in 5A quarterfinals

Monday, May 20, 2024 | 9:33 PM

Franklin Regional had to scratch and claw for offense in the opening round of the WPIAL Class 5A baseball playoffs last week, coming back to edge Connellsville.

On Monday, the hits and runs came in bunches as the Panthers offense carried the day in a 13-1 six-inning quarterfinal victory over No. 3 North Hills.

“The guys came out and played an amazing game,” Franklin Regional coach Bob Saddler said. “We jumped out early, and all phases of the game they executed — pitching, fielding, hitting, just a great overall game by our boys. Now we need to keep playing like this.”

The Panthers struck early and often against the Section 3-5A co-champion Indians.

In the top of the first inning, following back-to-back walks to Max Bernadowski and Luke Williams, Blake Bertucci and Brady Yarabinitz delivered RBI singles to put the Panthers up, 2-0.

Bertucci then scored on a wild pitch from North Hills starter Ben Barr.

Franklin Regional blew the game wide open by sending 10 batters to the plate in the second inning.

The inning included two more walks and two Indians errors.

“We picked a bad day to have our worst game,” North Hills coach Jon Pedrosky said.

Bernadowski, Williams and Darren DeRiggi had RBI singles with Yarabinitz adding a sacrifice fly in a six-run second inning that put the Panthers up, 9-0.

“Hitting wise, the approach the boys took was looking to drive the baseball early, then if we got in a two-strike approach, they did a good job putting the ball in play,” Saddler said. “North Hills is a great team that had a heck of a season. For us to do something like this, we showed we have a special team here.”

The large lead early was a great benefit to Bernadowski, the Panthers senior pitcher.

“He’s amazing,” Saddler said. “He’s a competitor who wanted the ball, and it showed. Getting ahead early, the fastball was there, he was able to locate and when he needed to show the off speed, he did that. He trusted his defense throughout the game.”

Bernadowski pitched six innings, allowing only one run on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

“My fastball was definitely my best pitch,” Bernadowski said. “I wasn’t locating my slider as much, but I didn’t really need to because my fastball was doing the job.”

Pitching with a nine-run lead after two innings is nice, but Bernadowski tried to keep that killer instinct on the hill throughout the outing.

“You cannot leave your foot off the pedal in these big games,” the Slippery Rock commit said. “We never played North Hills before so I had no idea what I was coming into. Being that this was the first playoff game I ever pitched, I had to come out and be the best competitor I can be.”

Franklin Regional added an unearned run in the fourth inning, and North Hills dented the scoreboard with a run in the bottom of the fifth inning when Tristan Weiman’s bunt single plated Austin Hagerman, who had led off the inning with a double.

The final three runs scored in the top of the sixth inning for the Panthers on a DeRiggi two-run homer and a Bernadowski single that scored Cole Brinker, who had doubled.

DeRiggi led the 14-hit attack for Franklin Regional with three hits. Brinker, Bernadowski, Williams and Yarabinitz had two each.

The victory moves No. 6 Franklin Regional (14-7) into a semifinal meeting with No. 7 Penn-Trafford at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Gateway.

The Panthers swept the Warriors in a pair of games the last week of the regular season to force a four-way tie atop the section.

“One thing about our team is they love competing together,” Saddler said. “They love being around each other. They love coming to the ballfield. They just enjoy each other’s company. Our coaches have told them, have fun playing baseball and our talents will show themselves throughout the playoffs.”

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