Franklin Regional tops shorthanded Latrobe in Section 1-5A finale

Monday, May 6, 2019 | 9:58 PM

Franklin Regional breathed a sigh of relief as Latrobe’s “next-player-up” mindset came up just short.

Down to its fourth string pitcher in sophomore Emily Schmucker, Latrobe nearly overcame a pair of multi-run deficits in an attempt to snap out of a funk that has hit the Wildcats in the back half of the season. But, in the end, the result was a key 6-4 victory for the Panthers in Section 1-5A play Monday at Latrobe’s Graham-Sabota Field.

After Franklin Regional (11-6, 10-4) scored the game’s first run on an opening inning single by Mallory Halleck, Schmucker controlled the Franklin Regional lineup until the late innings.

Then things took off.

Kylee O’Neill reignited the Panthers’ offense by smacking a solo home run with two outs in the sixth inning to push Franklin Regional’s lead to 2-0.

“It was nice,” Panthers coach Jim Armstrong said. “Kylee’s been hitting the ball pretty well lately. She’s one of our underrated people. I really feel that our outfield is one of the best outfields in the section.”

In the bottom half, Latrobe answered with Makayla Munchinski’s two-run home run, tying the game.

With a chance to grab the lead, Latrobe’s Hannah Brewer sent a single into right field. But Franklin Regional right fielder Sara Cowell threw a rope to the plate, and Latrobe’s Jenna Tallman was tagged out. Brewer, on the same play, advanced on the throw home, but was thrown out at second base after overextending her turn toward third base.

“I thought that was the turning point of the game,” Armstrong said. “That’s the third girl (Cowell) has thrown out at home (this season). The kid’s got a cannon, and she’s always looking to throw people out. That double play there shut them down.”

It looked as if Franklin Regional would cruise to victory after sending 10 batters to the plate in the top of the seventh. Angalee Beall’s two-run single, Mariah DeRiggi’s base hit and Olivia Yurinko’s sacrifice fly gave the Panthers the lead back, and it extended it to 6-2.

Latrobe (11-6, 8-6) again had a response. With two outs, Lauren Bisignani plated two runs with a double. Munchinski then walked. But Beall, Franklin Regional’s starting pitcher, got Jenna Tallman to chase a 3-2 pitch to end the game.

Beall, a Point Park recruit, tossed a complete game, allowing three earned runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and a walk.

“She battles,” Armstrong said. “But we need to be able to put teams down sometimes. She did a good job today.

“It was big for us to get this win because it puts us in second place (in the section). Plus, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever beaten Latrobe.”

Armstrong, in his 17th year, was 0-7 against the Wildcats heading into Monday’s meeting.

“Our averages aren’t real high,” he said. “We aren’t a team that has all these gaudy averages all the time. That’s just not us. We do the best we can do with what we have.”

Latrobe, which has already secured a playoff spot, has now lost five of its last six games, despite the a carousel at the pitching position.

Jordan Tallman replaced a Division I caliber recruit in Kiley Myers, who left Latrobe’s team four games into the season. When Tallman went down, Sophie Schmucker got a shot at pitching. Now, it seems, the reigns in the circle belong to Emily Schmucker, who also went seven innings, letting up six earned runs on 10 hits, with five walks and four strikeouts.

“She did a real good job,” Latrobe coach Rick Kozusko said. “Franklin Regional’s a good hitting team, but she hung in there real well. The fourth time through (the order), they hit the ball, put some balls in play and got a few runs there win the seventh inning. We’re proud of the way she stepped on the rubber today and her effort. Every game, we see improvement with her. She’s stepping up.”

Kozusko still has high expectations, no matter who is in the lineup.

“It’s what we’ve worked on all year,” he said. “We have them on the varsity roster. We told them that from Day 1, that they’ve got to be ready to go. As I always say, we’ve got to circle the wagons. Everybody’s got to be ready to contribute in some way.

“We just need to keep improving. I think they can take away what happened, and how they battled back. But need to put pressure on teams early in games like this.”

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