Westmoreland baseball notebook: Franklin Regional’s Williams right at home as freshman

Thursday, April 6, 2023 | 5:21 PM

Freshman baseball players usually need an adjustment period. Time to get used to older teammates, harsher critiques and varsity pitching.

But Franklin Regional freshman Luke Williams seems like he has been here before.

The shortstop is having a remarkable debut season for the WPIAL Class 5A No. 3-ranked Panthers (7-1).

He is a long way from his ceiling, but he has floored his coaches and teammates.

“Incredible ability, and he wants to work to get better,” Panthers coach Bobby Saddler said. “It’s his approach to each at-bat. He hunts.”

Williams was hitting .458 (11 for 24) through eight games with an astonishing 1.375 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS).

He had 10 RBIs, nine runs, five doubles, a triple and a home run.

“He’s the real deal,” Saddler said. “And he is such a good kid; mature and well-spoken.”

Williams, whose brother, Jake, was a standout for the Panthers before moving on to play at Yale, said he was accepted from his first day around the team.

“I didn’t know how I would start, I just wanted to come out and play well,” Luke Williams said. “I was a little nervous in my first couple at-bats. My teammates really encouraged me when I struggled.”

Not that he has struggled much.

Perfect Game ranks Williams as the state’s No. 1 prospect at shortstop in the Class of 2026 and the No. 17 shortstop nationally among ninth-graders.

He is ranked No. 3 overall in Pennsylvania.

Williams does much more than hit. He has been clocked at 93 mph throwing across the infield, and hit 97 mph from the outfield.

But the Panthers value his hitting, which he does from the No. 2 spot in the order.

“His hand speed is very good,” Saddler said. “He’s not affected much by velocity, and he sees the ball out of the pitcher’s hand.”

Williams plays for the Artillery travel team, which has players from California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Upset special

Hempfield came close to upsetting No. 1-ranked Central Catholic in the first of a three-game section series Monday.

The Spartans closed the deal in Game 2 on Tuesday.

Hempfield knocked off the Vikings, 2-0, behind steady pitching, sound defense and just enough offense.

Parker Donsen pitched six strong innings, yielding two hits, and Conner Burkey came on for the save. Caden Biondi doubled, and had both RBIs for the Spartans (3-3, 1-1).

It was the first WPIAL loss this season for Central (2-2, 1-1).

Golden Lions lurking

First-year coach Anthony Manley has Greensburg Salem playing well early.

The Golden Lions were 6-1 overall and 4-0 in Section 3-3A through Tuesday.

The team dropped from Class 4A, where it went 10-20 the last two seasons and did not make the WPIAL playoffs.

In 2019, the Golden Lions went 14-3 and earned a bye into the WPIAL 4A quarterfinals. That came a year after the team made the semifinals in the first of three straight playoff trips.

They last played in 3A in 2016, the year before the WPIAL went to six classifications.

Manley replaced Bill Wisniewski, who resigned after nine seasons. Wisniewski, who is now an assistant at Latrobe, said the program was in good shape when he handed the keys to Manley, a former assistant.

Bradish commits

Latrobe senior first baseman Logan Bradish announced he will continue his playing career at Davis & Elkins, a Division II schools in Elkins, W.Va.

In five games this spring, Bradish was 6 for 21 (.353) with three doubles, two RBIs and five runs scored.

He slashed .333/.667/.458 last season with six doubles and nine RBIs. He only played in one game as a sophomore.

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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