Short-handed Franklin Regional tops Latrobe for 4th straight victory

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018 | 9:55 PM


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Franklin Regional baseball was down a couple starters, got outhit, had a trio of errors in one inning, and had to use its ace pitcher in relief when its five-run lead began to leak oil late.

No problem.

Despite all of those factors working against them, the Panthers still managed to collect their fourth straight victory Wednesday afternoon, 5-3 over host Latrobe on the turf at Graham-Sobota Field.

“Each win has been team ball for us,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said. “Each victory we get another guy stepping up.”

The Panthers (7-2, 5-1) remain within a game of first-place Laurel Highlands (6-0, 6-0) in Section 3-5A. Laurel Highlands, which has outscored opponents 81-5, has wins over Latrobe and Franklin Regional.

Latrobe (3-5, 2-4) has lost three straight, the first time that has happened since 2015. After Franklin Regional took a 5-0 lead after two innings, the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Wildcats rallied for three runs across the fifth and sixth but left shaking their heads having left 11 on base.

“We had the opportunities but we have not been able to come up with the clutch hit,” Latrobe coach Matt Basciano said. “We're working hard to produce runs, but it's been tough. Against Laurel Highlands we jump out to a 1-0 lead after 3 12 innings and let them score 15 runs in one inning. We're still learning as we go.”

Franklin Regional loaded the bases in the first and right fielder Michael Klingensmith and center fielder Zach Seaman helped clear them, both delivering run-scoring singles, Seaman's a three-run hit that made it 4-0 with two outs.

“That start was huge,” Saddler said. “It's big any time you can get up on someone like that. I wish we could have added on. ... But I am happy with how we executed in key stretches.”

Latrobe starter Griffin Clark threw 36 pitches in the first and 74 over the opening two frames.

The Panthers made it 5-0 in the second when third baseman Louie Kegerreis singled into the left-field corner to score Shane Sciorilli.

Latrobe put runners at first and second in the second and third innings but grounded into a pair of 6-4-3 double plays.

“We can't keep using inexperience as an excuse,” Basciano said. “We have to learn from this and come out strong. We have to flip things around.”

A two-out single by Ben Rafferty scored Preston Boerio in the fifth to make it 5-1. In that inning, Panthers' starter Palmer Jackson left after 92 pitches and was replaced by Bronson Ianno.

The Wildcats tightened the gap in the sixth after Hunter Stumpf reached on a error and scored on a single by Jake Bradish. Another error set up runners at the corners, and Connor Mondock produced a sacrifice fly to get the Wildcats within 5-3.

A misplayed dribbler back to the mound area kept the momentum on Franklin Regional's side and forced another call to the bullpen. Saddler brought in his No. 1 pitcher, Alex Frey, to stop the bleeding and Frey, despite a passed ball, picked up an inning-ending strikeout.

He also induced a 1-2-3 seventh, ending the game with back-to-back strikeouts.

“Bringing (Frey) in was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing,” Saddler said. “We didn't want to start him to keep his pitches down, but he said he felt good so I went to him late.”

Freshman Tucker Knupp, made varsity-ready because the junior varsity game was postponed, relieved Clark in the fifth after Clark reached 100 pitches.

Franklin Regional played without two starters, including sophomore catcher Bryce Harper, a Virginia Tech recruit.

Matthew Fitzmaurice played well in the absence of Harper, whom Saddler said should not miss much time.

There were 18 hits in the game, all singles.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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