Westmoreland County baseball notebook: Franklin Regional senior dedicates season to brother battling cancer

Thursday, April 4, 2024 | 11:01 AM

Truth be told, Blake Bertucci would love to be pitching to his brother, Luca.

That is how the siblings once envisioned it.

While the pitcher-catcher combination is absent this season at Franklin Regional, the sentiment remains.

Blake Bertucci is a senior pitcher who leads the Panthers’ staff. Luca Bertucci is a sophomore catcher who is battling cancer but showing valor.

Blake made it clear that this season is for his brother, batterymate or not.

“Ever since we found out about him being diagnosed, I knew I wanted to dedicate this season to him,” Blake said. “He’s been one of my biggest supporters throughout my career and still continues to be, even when he’s not always around. I think we’ve got a special team this year and could have some huge accomplishments happen in dedication to him.

“Luca knows I’m not a real emotional person, but deep down, he knows I would way rather fight his battle for him.”

Blake said Luca has been in the hospital for the past three weeks “battling out.”

“Scans are looking optimistic, and he just has one more round (of chemotherapy) left,” he said. “Then, over the next year, they will make sure to keep monitoring him.”

Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said Luca has given the team perspective.

“Luca’s mental and physical toughness throughout his battle has been inspirational for everyone,” the coach said. “His positive approach to each day while going through treatments and dealing with setbacks has to put things in perspective for us. The booster organization provided the team with ‘Luca Strong’ stickers, and the players have them on their batting helmets to honor Luca and his fight every day.

“Blake has never needed any extrinsic motivational factors, but I am sure he wants this season to be one that he and Luca remember for a long time.”

Sunday baseball

Anxious and borderline desperate to play their three-game series and get the section schedule back on track, Norwin and Baldwin will play a doubleheader Sunday at Gateway, which has an all-turf field.

The games are set for 1 and 3:30 p.m.

Game 1 of the series will be 2 p.m. Saturday at Baldwin’s Wallace Field.

The series was rescheduled after postponements because of rain and unplayable field conditions.

Four more years

Wild Things Park in Washington will host the WPIAL baseball championships through 2027.

The WPIAL and Wild Things extended their partnership for at least four more years.

The WPIAL finals have been played at Wild Things Park — formerly Falconi Field — since 2003.

Greensburg Central Catholic (2015), Norwin (2016), Jeannette (2017), Latrobe (2017) and Franklin Regional (2021) have won titles at the field.

This year’s finals are set for the week of May 27, with the Pittsburgh Pirates once again sponsoring the title games.

Top games

Some section series to watch Monday and Tuesday include Ringgold-Latrobe, Mt. Pleasant-Greensburg Salem and Plum-Penn-Trafford.

Ranking ’em

Unbeaten Hempfield remains in the No. 4 spot in the TribLive HSSN Class 6A rankings.

Latrobe also didn’t budge from the No. 4 spot in 4A, and Greensburg Central Catholic bumped up one spot from No. 4 to 3 in Class 2A.

Extra bases

Latrobe started 3-1 but scored as many runs as it allowed (15). … Through five games, Yough (2-3) scored 30 runs and allowed 30. … Hempfield’s 57 runs over the first six games were leading Class 6A. … Hempfield (6-0) and North Allegheny (3-0) were the only unbeaten teams left in 6A going into Wednesday.

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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