Franklin Regional ‘revved up’ for PIAA quarterfinal matchup

Wednesday, June 5, 2019 | 8:04 PM

Michael Klingensmith led off first base after drawing a walk in the top of the first inning in Monday’s PIAA first- round game when Cathedral Prep pitcher Colin Kelly made a pick-off throw to first.

Klingensmith dove back to the bag, easily beating the attempt and right on cue all of his Franklin Regional teammates yelled “not even,” and then after a brief pause, “close.”

“That’s a team thing that we’ve been doing a couple of years,” Klingensmith said. “Everybody loves it.”

The “not even close” chant was just the beginning for a team that was loud and engaged from the first pitch to the last one in a 13-4 victory over the Ramblers.

They will take that unique dugout dynamic to Scotland’s Greene Township Park where they face District 3’s Lampeter-Strasburg (22-4) in the PIAA Class 5A quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Panthers (19-2) make their presence known with their collective voice and back it up with their play.

They all stand together right next to the fence in the dugout and aren’t afraid to throw a few playful chirps out to opponents every now and then. There were a couple of benches in their dugout on Monday, but nobody used them.

The loose nature within the team has been built through strong senior leadership from Klingensmith and Palmer Jackson among others and young talent like Louie and Tommy Kegerreis, Bryce Harper and Andrew Muraco that’s made big plays all spring.

“It’s so cliché to say, but these guys truly love each other, and as a coaching staff we love these guys,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said. “It’s so much fun to come to the ballpark with the group of guys that we have. Whenever you love the game of baseball and love the guys that you’re doing it with, good things are going to happen.”

Klingensmith pointed to Jackson as the king of coming up with the dugout chirps. It is a bit out of character for Jackson, who described himself as mostly reserved, but the exception is when he’s on the diamond.

“With baseball I just get revved up,” Jackson said. “It’s a sport where you can chirp people. Everything we say is fine. It’s not like we’re saying ridiculous stuff, but we try to get in other team’s heads a little bit. I try to think of stuff that I wouldn’t want people to say to me when I was pitching and say that to try to get them off their game.

“We just try to have fun. All of us have bonded well. There’s never really any drama. We just go about our business, and we know when to take it seriously.”

While Jackson comes up with some fun things to say, Harper is the most vocal, especially during the “not even close” chant.

“The one that always screams ‘not even’ is Bryce, because he just likes to scream,” Jackson said. “Then everyone else follows with ‘close.’ When other teams try to mock us, that’s when it gets ugly. They’re in trouble.”

There hasn’t been much to mock when it comes to the Panthers’ play. They’ve scored runs in bunches all season. The 13 runs they scored against Cathedral Prep on Monday was the seventh time they’ve eclipsed 10.

Lampeter-Strasburg likely will provide their toughest test to date. The Pioneers have three Division I commits — Dylan Byler (Delaware State), Braedon Karpathios (Coastal Carolina) and Aaron Snyder (Canisius). They dispatched WPIAL champ Shaler, 5-1, in the first round.

Jackson, a Notre Dame golf recruit, won’t be in attendance Thursday because he’s playing in a golf tournament in Columbus, Ohio.

Though he won’t be there, he expects his team to have the same type of emotion they showed Monday.

“I think this will be our toughest test of the year so far,” Jackson said. “At least on paper, (Lampeter-Strasburg) looks pretty good, so we’re going to have to play a strong game. As long as they stay loud in the dugout, I think they’ll be good.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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