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Franklin Regional baseball team escapes horrors of knife attack with game at PNC Park

| Saturday, April 12, 2014, 11:56 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional High School senior Partick Kukalis (#17) collects high-fives from his teammates after scoring a run against Seneca Valley High School in PNC Park along the North Shore on Saturday, April 12, 2014. This was the boys baseball team's first game back since the student knife attack at Franklin Regional earlier this week.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional High School baseball fan Lane Weiner of Murreysville talks to the Tribune-Review about watching the boys team play Seneca Valley High School in PNC Park along the North Shore on Saturday, April 12, 2014. This was the boys baseball team's first game back since the student knife attack at Franklin Regional earlier this week.

Before Saturday, their week had been filled with anxious messages about injured friends, tears and prayer vigils.

But as the sun burned away the last vestiges of fog shrouding Downtown skyscrapers Saturday morning, a group of Franklin Regional High students, suited up in their varsity baseball uniforms, filed into the dugout at PNC Park to shake off the horror of the mass stabbing that rocked their world on Wednesday.

Before the morning was over, the Franklin Panthers would best the Seneca Valley Raiders 3-1 in seven innings before a scattering of parents and fans in the major league park on the shores of the Allegheny.

“It's something we really needed,” said Carrie Jonov-Luko of Murrysville, who came to watch her son Colin Jonov play for the 4-3 Panthers.

Franklin officials closed the high school after the bloody rampage by a high school sophomore Wednesday morning that left a security guard and 20 students injured and thousands more wondering why.

Officials have yet to decide when school will reopen, but there was never any discussion of canceling Saturday's game.

It was, after all, a first opportunity for the high school teams to play in the big league park where small boys dream big and names like Clemente, Mazeroski and “Cutch” loom large.

Away from the satellite trucks and news cameras that dogged the community for days, Franklin fans were able to bask in the sun to the timeless sounds of baseball — the solid smack of the ball in the catcher's mitt, the crack of a bat as a hitter connects and the umpire's one-word calls.

Jonov-Luko, who has four children, including two at Franklin Regional High School, said the past days have been trying for everyone as students awaited word about their friends and struggled to adjust to a new reality.

“It's been hard. As a parent, this has been unprecedented,” she said softly in the shadow of the ballpark.

Students are taking solace in one another, said Lane Weiner of Murrysville. Weiner, who has two children at the high school, came to PNC Park to watch her son, Noah, play with his team.

“They're holding up OK. They've really been supporting each other,” Weiner said.

As Saturday's game drew to an end, there came a reminder that others are reaching out to them as well.

“On behalf of the Seneca Valley School District, we wish to extend our thoughts and prayers to all the families of the Franklin Regional District,” the announcer at PNC Park said.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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