Quinn’s homer carries Franklin Regional over Hempfield in season opener

Friday, March 26, 2021 | 9:05 PM

Field announcer Dennis Nicely introduced “Timmy J. Quinn” as the Franklin Regional senior first baseman came to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning adding, “The J stands for just have fun.”

A few seconds later, it could have stood for jack.

One swing of the bat was sure fun, too.

Quinn launched the first pitch he saw in his second at-bat over the left-center field fence and onto the roof of Murrysville Community Center for a three-run homer to lead the Panthers to a 3-2 opening-day victory Friday over Hempfield at Haymaker Park.

“That is from our school announcements,” Quinn said of the in-jest reference to his middle initial. He and teammate Thomas Nicely work the school news desk. “I end the announcements with, ‘I am Timothy J. Quinn, the J stands for … anything they want.’ ”

The Panthers (1-0), ranked No. 3 in WPIAL Class 5A, trailed 6A Hempfield, 2-0, after Spartans’ junior Joey Fiedor delivered a two-run single in the top of the inning as the teams returned to action for the first time since 2019.

Senior Andrew Muraco walked to open the Panthers’ fourth, and senior Louis Kegerreis (2 for 3) singled to center. That set the table for Quinn, who couldn’t wait for another shot at Spartans ace Phil Fox.

“We were kind of down on the momentum part going into the bottom of the fourth,” said Quinn, a Mercyhurst recruit. “The inning before, I was thinking, fastball inside is what’s coming. He’s living up and in on everybody to try to jam them. So I know that’s what’s coming.

“I took control of the at-bat and was able to get a hold of one and put our team ahead.”

Quinn also homered in a scrimmage against Mars, but this one counted as his first varsity homer.

With Fox on the mound, Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler knew his team’s opportunities could be slim. And they were.

“Rock and Louie did a great job to get on for Timmy,” Saddler said. “He is a swing away all the time, and he knows it. We have confidence in our guys. Timmy is in the middle of the order for a reason. We know he can deliver.”

Strong pitching and defense allowed Franklin Regional to preserve the slim advantage, despite comeback attempts in the final two frames. The Panthers overcame Fox, a senior Gardner-Webb commit who allowed just two hits over five innings.

Hempfield outhit the Panthers, 5-3.

“We were a couple feet away from a few more runs,” Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard said. “This was a really good game both ways. We hit the ball hard and had good at-bats. I am proud of our energy. It felt great to be back.”

Senor Brian Pirone, a Seton Hill commit, started for the Panthers but had early control issues. Still, he worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first with three walks and three strikeouts, and he only allowed two hits before he was replaced with senior Luke Treloar. The Cal (Pa.) recruit earned the save.

Pirone struck out six and walked just as many.

“Brian didn’t have his best stuff early, but he didn’t let it get to him,” Saddler said. “We tell our seniors you need to be as big as the moment.”

Buzzard was impressed with Pirone.

“He’s probably one of the hardest throwers we will face,” Buzzard said.

Hempfield (0-1) appeared to have life late.

Senior Christian Zilli, another Seton Hill commit, ripped a one-out double to the fence in left early in the seventh. But junior Brandon Coughlin, a Lehigh commit, and senior Mike Hosni both grounded out to end it.

With a runner at third, Kegerreis cleanly fielded Hosni’s bouncer and threw to Quinn, who made a tough stretch for the final putout.

In the sixth, Hempfield had runners at first and second when Fox cracked a deep fly down the left-field line, but the ball just curled foul. Swirling winds might have impacted a few well-hit drives.

Fox then flew out to right fielder Caden Smith, and the junior relayed to Quinn, who flicked it over to Kegerreis at second to complete a double play.

“That was probably the game right there, doubling them up,” Saddler said. “Caden Smith made a couple of really nice catches for us. And it was tough with the wind. You can be a great hitting team and a great pitching team, but you need the defense to come up with plays, too.”

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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