Jackson, Harper lead No. 2 Franklin Regional past Fox Chapel in Section 1-5A

Thursday, May 2, 2019 | 8:31 PM

When Franklin Regional played Fox Chapel back on April 5, the Panthers rallied for an extra-inning victory.

There would be no late-inning rally needed in the rematch Thursday.

The first-place Panthers, ranked No. 2 by Trib HSSN, jumped on Fox Chapel early and often and rolled to an 8-1 Section 1-5A victory behind a one-hit pitching performance by Palmer Jackson and an aggressive offensive attack.

Jackson allowed a leadoff single to Jacob Gruden and an unearned run while striking out eight and walking two before being pulled with two outs in the top of the seventh inning because he reached the 100-pitch mark.

The PIAA Class AAA golf champion and Notre Dame recruit was disappointed he ran out of pitches.

But he left with a comfortable lead and helped Franklin Regional (12-1, 9-0) maintain a one-game advantage over Gateway (11-4, 8-1) for the top spot in the section. It was the Panthers’ ninth consecutive victory.

Fox Chapel remains comfortable in third place at 8-5, 6-4. Both teams have clinched WPIAL playoff berths.

“We want to win the section outright,” Jackson said. “We scored a lot of runs early. We have a lot of good hitters.

“I had all my pitches going pretty well. My fastball was hitting spots, my curveball was in the zone, and my knuckleball was in the zone. I really felt good out there.”

Fox Chapel didn’t have a runner get past second base until the seventh inning. After Jackson walked opposing pitcher Jonathan Simon with two outs in the second inning, he retired the next 12 in order.

“Any time Palmer is on the mound, he’s going to shut people down,” Franklin Regional senior catcher Bryce Harper said. “Today, his stuff was on point. His fastball and curveball are easy to catch, but his knuckleball messes with me a bit.”

Franklin Regional took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Lou Kegerreis and it made it 2-0 in the second on a sacrifice fly by Michael Klingensmith.

In the four-run third inning, it was Harper’s three-run home run that broke the game open.

“We came out and put a statement up in the first inning and then another in the second inning,” Harper said. “Then we broke it open.”

Fox Chapel coach Jim Hastings said the home run was the back breaker.

“The home run was the difference,” Hastings said. “When you get a three-run homer, it changes things. Jonathan (Simon) was bothered with the mound a little, and he was missing his spots.

“Jackson is a good pitcher. We knew we were getting their best pitcher, and we didn’t get the job done.”

Franklin Regional stayed aggressive at the plate and on the base paths. The Panthers stole six bases.

“Being aggressive at the plate is something we worked on in the offseason. We worked on our approach to the plate. We focused on hitting,” FR coach Bobby Saddler said.

“With the pitch count, you have to be able to be aggressive on the hill and work ahead. Palmer, there isn’t a moment too big for him. He’s very confident.”

Franklin Regional tacked on single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Matt Fitzmaurice had a sacrifice fly in the fifth, and Tommy Kegerreis singled in the sixth inning.

Both Franklin Regional and Gateway have three section games remaining, including their possible first-place showdown Wednesday at Haymaker Park.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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