Latrobe earns doubleheader sweep of Franklin Regional with pair of 1-run wins

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Tuesday, April 12, 2022 | 9:34 PM


Latrobe had every reason to say “Cheese.”

Wildcats baseball players were all smiles after a doubleheader sweep of No. 5-ranked Franklin Regional on Tuesday, including a Game 2 win powered by the battery of senior pitcher Chase Sickenberger — nicknamed “Cheese” long ago by his brother — and senior catcher Logan Short.

Sickenberger, who vaulted into a starting spot this year after limited relief work a year ago, tossed a complete game, and Short went 2 for 2 with a double and two RBIs in a 4-3 victory to cap a Section 1-5A sweep over the visiting Panthers at Graham-Sobota Field.

The Wildcats (6-2, 4-0) also posted a one-run victory in the first game, 5-4, as Sickenberger delivered a two-run triple and Short added two RBIs.

Latrobe has managed to pull away some from a traffic jam of an early section race.

“This was about us having a lot of heart,” Short said. “And us playing to the best of our abilities. We have a great bunch of guys. Chase was tremendous today. His fastball was humming, and he had three pitches working.”

Latrobe, winners of five straight, including three one-run games in a row, rallied from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits in the second game to overtake the defending WPIAL champion Panthers (4-4, 1-3), who have fallen off their early pace with some tight losses.

“Franklin is a great team,” Sickenberger said. “We knew if we came out and played hard we could match up with them. I like being a starting pitcher. It’s fun.”

Sickenberger struck out eight and walked one in his second complete-game win of the season.

“He’s a three-sport kid,” Latrobe coach Matt Basciano said of Sickenberger. “He is a tough kid. He goes right at guys. We expected him to play a big role for us.”

Latrobe finally went ahead to stay and back Sickenberger with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Short ripped a bouncing, ground-rule double over the fence in left center to bring home Sickenberger, who stole second after a walk, to make it 3-3.

Senior Vinny Amatucci then grounded out to third, but an error allowed the go-ahead run to score and it was 4-3.

Speaking of one-run games, Franklin Regional has lost three of them this season.

“You have to tip your cap to Latrobe,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said. “Their pitchers kept us off balance. We wish we could have a few plays back offensively and defensively. (Sickenberger) was extremely efficient with his pitches. We know teams are getting up for us. We’re getting everyone’s best.”

Senior Caden Smith, who took the loss for the Panthers, tripled in the top of the fifth and scored on sophomore Owen Sinclair’s sacrifice fly to give the Panthers a 3-2 edge.

But Sickenberger retired six of the last seven batters, with the help of a double play in the sixth and two strikeouts in the seventh.

In the fourth, junior Anthony Alesi hit a two-run homer to left for Franklin Regional to put his team up 2-1 after Short’s RBI single an inning earlier.

Senior Owen Miele tied it 2-2 with a two-out, run-scoring single in the fourth.

“It’s so vital to get the extra work in with exhibition games and scrimmages,” Basciano said. “It has really helped our guys. They trust each other and play for one another. Whatever it takes.”

Junior Logan Bradish also had a double for the Wildcats.

In Game 1, when both teams managed just three hits, Latrobe held on after taking a 5-2 lead in the fifth. The visiting team on their home turf for that game, the Wildcats rallied from a 2-0 deficit with a three-run third.

Sickenberger laced a two-run triple to to tie it, and Short brought him home with a sacrifice fly.

Senior Jake Albaugh made it 4-2 in the fourth with an RBI on a groundout following another Panthers’ error.

It was 5-2 an inning later when Short singled to right to score sophomore Jake Cramer.

Franklin Regional scored twice in the fifth to cut the lead to 5-4. Junior Dan Luko tripled to right to produce the first run, and a wild pitch let another run score.

Albaugh, another 12th grader on a senior-heavy team, started on the mound for Latrobe but was chased in that tough fifth.

Senior Bobby Fetter came on and was efficient with the precarious lead.

He had help, too. The Wildcats produced a 3-4 double play to end the sixth.

Fetter overcame a walk and wild pitch in the seventh to keep the Panthers off the board and was credited with a save.

Senior Thomas Nicely doubled, and Ryan DalCanton had an RBI.

Seniors Jordan Suvak and Kyle Morgan pitched for the Panthers. Morgan also relieved Smith in the second game.

“We’re going to learn from this,” Saddler said. “This is a tough section, and our guys know that. We’ll find a way.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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