Westmoreland baseball notebook: Franklin Regional playing well at right time

Thursday, May 12, 2022 | 9:29 PM

Franklin Regional won’t get the No. 1 seed like it did last year, but the Panthers have something most of the other teams in the WPIAL Class 5A playoff field don’t have: championship experience.

The defending champions, who ran their winning streak to six with a 10-3 win over Kiski Area on Monday at Haymaker Park — their mascot, “Rafael,” a life-sized coyote statue was perched at the edge of the infield after the game to ward off geese like the team defending its title — hope to use what they learned last year to make another run.

Six starters came back with playoff experience.

“It’s about determination,” senior designated hitter Jack Bridges said. “We know we have room to get better.”

Franklin Regional finished second to Latrobe in Section 1, but the Panthers are playing well at the right time.

“We have to play as a team and rely on each other,” said Anthony Alesi, who is playing first base after serving as the DH last year. “Nobody needs to take anything personal. We need to pick each other up.”

Coach Bobby Saddler hopes to lean on players who went through the title run, such as seniors Caden Smith, Jordan Suvak, Thomas Nicely, Alesi, Ryan DalCanton and others.

“We can’t let ourselves get too high or low. There are ebbs and flows,” Saddler said. “It’s not about one guy trying to do too much. They have to play for each other. That is how you win (in the playoffs).”

DalCanton on a tear

DalCanton, a lefty-swinging outfielder, was riding a hot streak heading into a couple of nonsection tune-ups for the postseason.

The Mount Union commit was hitting .404 with 13 RBIs, six doubles, and a triple.

In section games, he had a .471 average (16 for 34) with 10 RBIs. He had a hit in nine of 10 games.

Playoff time

The WPIAL is scheduled to release playoff brackets about 2 p.m. Friday virtually though the TribLive High School Sports Network.

The local field looks like this: Norwin (10-7) and Hempfield (7-12) in Class 6A; Latrobe (11-6), Penn-Trafford (13-5) and Franklin Regional (10-4) in 5A; Derry (10-5), Mt. Pleasant (9-7), Yough (10-6) and Southmoreland (6-6) in 3A; and Greensburg Central Catholic (8-5) in A.

Games are expected to be played at neutral sites with the finals set for May 31 and June 1 at Wild Things Park in Washington.

Latrobe and Yough could get the best local draw because they are section champions.

Franklin Regional and Penn-Trafford tied for second in Section 1-5A.

State playoffs

The pre-slotted PIAA tournament brackets are out. The first round is set to begin June 6, with the finals as follows at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park: Class 6A: 4:30 p.m. June 16; 5A: 4:30 p.m. June 17; 4A: 1:30 p.m. June 16; 3A: 1:30 p.m. June 17; 2A: 10:30 a.m. June 16; A: 10:30 a.m. June 17.

Ochs to Thiel

Belle Vernon senior infielder Aidan Ochs will continue his playing career at Thiel, a Division III progam in Greenville.

Ochs plays shortstop for the Leopards.

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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