Franklin Regional softball team hits upswing as playoffs approach

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Saturday, May 15, 2021 | 11:01 AM


After losing its first two games, the Franklin Regional softball has been a model of consistency. Sort of.

A four-game winning streak was followed by four losses. But then, as you might have been able to guess, the Panthers won four more in a row.

Coach Jim Armstrong is focusing more on the most recent streak, which earned the Panthers (8-6, 7-4) a spot in the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.

“We have turned it around some,” he said. “I think that at the beginning of the year we were just trying to find the pieces to for the puzzle. We are a young team, and they are coming into their own. I told the girls finishing strong is the important thing. We will have some bumps along the way but to just take it one game at a time.”

After Franklin Regional lost to Section 1 leader Armstrong at home, Armstrong talked to his players in the dugout around a space heater on a freezing, gray day.

The bats also were just getting warmed up.

An offensive surge jumpstarted the late-season playoff push. The Panthers beat Penn Hills, 10-2; Woodland Hills, 15-5 and 10-0; and Kiski Area, 12-3.

Armstrong said patience has been the key to staying the course after the team sank to 4-6 just past the midseason point.

“That was our motto over the last few years,” he said. “One pitch at a time. Three full outs. Seven full innings. And 21 full games. Keep your eye on the prize and visualize.”

But Armstrong realized this year’s team actually never has embraced that motto — until now.

Sophomores have powered the lineup card. Madison Nguyen might be the best 5A player you haven’t heard of. She was hitting .488 with seven home runs, 26 RBIs, and 16 runs. Nguyen was closing in on the school single-season record for homers set by Erin Cline, who hit nine.

“That is always a spark to help get teams going,” Armstrong said of the home runs.

Other sophomores include Alexa Patberg (.400), Sydney Jackson (.392, 11 RBIs) and Carli Ramchandran (12 RBIs).

Senior Kamaria Kelly (.326) also has been a sparkplug in recent rallies.

“Kamaria set the tone in the Kiski game by leading off with a triple and then scoring the first run on a squeeze play by (junior Kamryn Marcus).”

Senior pitcher Makinzie DeRiggi was 5-2 with a 2.95 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 5913 innings.

“Even though the Plum and Armstrong games were losses, she pitched well and kept us close,” Armstrong said of his ace.

With the playoffs approaching, the Panthers were looking to continue the offensive uptick and cut down on fielding miscues.

“The girls are learning and having fun,” Armstrong said. “They are a good group with some super attitudes. They never give up. They believe in our motto.”

And in streaks.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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