Penn-Trafford powers through in win over Franklin Regional

Monday, May 8, 2023 | 9:22 PM

Penn-Trafford continues to play through the pain.

The Warriors baseball team Monday lost another key player to an injury — its fourth this season — but went on to its third consecutive victory and seventh in the past eight games, beating Franklin Regional, 7-5, at Murrysville’s Haymaker Park, and delaying the Panthers’ bid for a seventh consecutive WPIAL playoff spot.

The teams are scheduled to meet again Tuesday at Penn-Trafford in their Section 1-5A finale with Franklin Regional needing a victory to qualify for the postseason.

“Hopefully (Tuesday) we come out and play a complete seven (innings), and we find ourselves in the playoffs,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said.

Brody Hoffman singled in Brayden Stone with the go-ahead run through a drawn-in infield, and Chuck Fontana followed with a two-run hit for playoff-bound Penn-Trafford (12-4-1, 8-3), which moved into a first-place tie in Section 1 with Plum, a 5-2 loser at Fox Chapel.

The victory was costly, nonetheless, for Penn-Trafford, which lost senior infielder Brady Lane indefinitely in the fourth inning to a shoulder injury. The Warriors, who haven’t been shut out of the playoffs in six consecutive seasons, already were without three other injured players — senior catcher Jakob Haynes, senior shortstop Jake Otto and junior outfielder Jason Sabol.

Haynes’ backup behind the plate, junior Ian Temple, hit his first varsity home run in the sixth inning against NJ Ramchandran to give Penn-Trafford a short-lived 4-2 lead.

“I didn’t have warning-track power today,” Temple said. “My coach (Lou Cortazzo) always says, ‘You usually have warning track power.’ I said, ‘Not today, coach.’ It felt pretty good.”

Cortazzo, Penn-Trafford’s interim coach, laughed when reminded of his good-natured needling.

“He had big-boy power today,” Cortazzo said of Temple, a 6-foot-2 junior who also filled in last season behind the plate for Haynes. The Seton Hill commit who also missed the 2022 season with a football-related injury.

A torn rotator cuff has sidelined him for much of this year.

“Ian is progressively getting stronger,” Cortazzo said. “He’s been working hard. All our guys have been working hard. These guys come to practice like it’s a job. They have their fun, but they work hard.”

Franklin Regional (12-6, 6-5) tied it 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth on Owen Sinclair’s two-run shot against winning pitcher Nolan Marasti, who pitched six innings and yielded four hits while striking out six and walking three with a hit batsman.

Evan Del Signore gave up Anthony Alesi’s RBI infield single in the seventh before getting Daniel Luko to line out to shortstop with a runner on second to earn a save.

“I knew I had an offense behind me that if I gave up a run, they would help me out,” Marasti said. “The home run? I saw (outfielder Tyler) Freas turn around, and I thought it was a pop fly. But then, he just stood there and I said, ‘Oh, it’s gone.’ It’s one of those things. It happens. You’ve just got to let go.”

He paused for moment, then added: “It feels better that we won.”

Lane injured the surgically repaired labrum in his right shoulder when he dove hard into first base on a pickoff play after reaching on an error.

Braden Boss ran for Lane and stayed in the lineup after scoring the game’s first run on an RBI single by Carmen Metcalfe, who later scored on a wild pitch to give Penn-Trafford a 2-0 lead against starter Max Bernadowski.

Bernadowski gave up five hits and struck four to go with three walks in four-plus innings. Ramchandran came on with a runner on first in the fifth and retired the side.

Franklin Regional rallied to tie the score 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth on Bernadowski’s deep sacrifice fly and an RBI double by Blake Bertucci.

But Penn-Trafford went back in front in the sixth on Temple’s blast over the center-field fence after Peyton Bigler reached on one of his three hits before Sinclair homered over the left-field fence to tie it again, setting up P-T’s three-run, clinching rally in the seventh.

Stone led off the inning with a double and scored on Hoffman’s single. One out later, Hoffman stole second and was safe at third when Boss reached on a fielder’s choice.

After Boss stole second, Fontana drove in both runners with a single up the middle to give Penn-Trafford a 7-4 advantage.

It’s a must-win scenario on Tuesday for Franklin Regional, which dropped its third game in the past four. The Panthers last missed the playoffs in 2014.

“I liked the approach today,” Saddler said. “We had opportunities. We battled all game and had baserunners at the end. We hit baseballs hard all day. We just hit it right at them. A couple of unfortunate things went their way, and they got the victory. We just have to be resilient because we understand our backs are against the wall.”

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