Franklin Regional softball rallies past Kiski Area to win section opener

Friday, April 6, 2018 | 7:58 PM

Franklin Regional's offense for the first four innings resembled the Parkway East during Friday rush hour: plenty of traffic and not much movement.

It caused some frustration, if not road rage, but the jam finally cleared.

A six-run bottom of the fifth inning helped Franklin Regional rally for a 7-4 victory over Kiski Area in a Section 1-5A softball opener between a pair of teams coming off WPIAL playoff appearances.

“We definitely lifted each other up after the fourth inning, even though we were down,” said catcher Abby Kane, whose sharp two-run single to center gave Franklin Regional the lead for good. “It was just nice. We worked as a team really well. We came back.

“It gets frustrating, but you have to stay in the game. We definitely did.”

It took until the fifth for Franklin Regional (3-1, 1-0) to get its first hit of the game, but the Panthers didn't lack for offensive opportunities. They drew six walks over the first four innings but left six runners on base as Kiski Area starter Megan Andree kept the Panthers at bay.

Andree navigated a tightrope, limiting Franklin Regional to just one run over the first four innings, stranding a pair of runners in scoring position in the first inning and leaving the bases loaded in the second. The Panthers' scored in the third on a Mallory Halleck groundout.

Meanwhile, a three-run fourth gave Kiski Area (0-1, 0-1) a 4-1 lead. Kassandra Cessna — who doubled in a run in the second inning — drove in her second run with a single. Alyssa Mintz added a run-scoring groundout, and Kelsey Sofaly added a two-out RBI single.

“We were pretty much putting the ball in play hard all game,” Kiski Area coach Maggie Jones said. “We just hit it right at them so many times, so many hard-hit balls. That, I'm proud of. I know that our offense is going to be stronger this year. I thought we could score more than four runs, but I know the hits will fall.”

Franklin Regional's offense finally broke through in the fifth. After Olivia Yurinko, Angalee Beall and Halleck drew consecutive walks to begin the inning, Kate Alexander dropped a fly ball into shallow right field, driving in a pair of runs even as she was thrown out at second. Mariah Deriggi walked and stole second, and Kane followed with a line drive to center field to give Franklin Regional a 5-4 lead. Kylie O'Neal added a two-run double to right field.

“We had the bases loaded or two people on a lot,” Franklin Regional coach Jim Armstrong said. “We were having a hard time, but we finally figured something out and got to it.”

Kiski Area had a chance to tie or take the lead in the sixth inning after loading the bases with one out. Kane picked a runner off of third base, and after a walk reloaded the bases, Beall struck out Kiski Area's Courtney Moyer to end the Cavaliers' last, best threat.

It was one of a few key defensive plays for Franklin Regional in the game; Deriggi caught a pair of line drives, turning one into a double play, and Beall snared a line drive back to the circle.

“Defensively, you want to be strong,” Armstrong said. “We did a pretty good job today. We had a couple little mess-ups today, but other than that we did pretty well defensively.”

Armstrong was worried somewhat about defense, given the two-week gap Franklin Regional had between games. The Panthers opened the season with three games in Vero Beach, Fla., but Friday marked their first game since returning to Western Pennsylvania.

“It is fun to get out,” Armstrong said. “It's kind of frustrating to be in the gym for so many days and kind of run out of stuff to do. Our practices became less and less. It's hard to concentrate in there, and I'm sure every team feels the same way.”

Beall pitched a complete game, allowing four runs on nine hits, walking three and striking out one. Andree allowed four hits and 10 walks in her six-inning complete game, striking out six.

Jones said she came away mostly encouraged despite Friday's loss, especially considering it was Kiski Area's first game of the season. The Cavaliers are coming off their first playoff appearance since 2011.

“Last year I was upset after our first game,” Jones said. “But this game, I have nothing really to talk to these girls in our huddle about things we need to improve on.

“I was proud of our efforts. I'm happy we get to play Franklin again. They were the only team in our section last year that beat us twice. I know we are every bit as good, if not better, but we just need to come out and play like it next time we play them.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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