ShareThis Page

Franklin Regional baseball finishes second in section

Doug Gulasy
| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 11:09 a.m.
Franklin Regional's Brett Myers tags out Plum's Will Kirkpatrick at third base Friday, May 3, 2013, at Plum.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Franklin Regional's Brett Myers tags out Plum's Will Kirkpatrick at third base Friday, May 3, 2013, at Plum.

The Franklin Regional baseball team can still win slugfests, as evidenced by a 17-16 victory last week over Central Catholic.

But the Panthers are proving they can win pitchers' duels, too.

Franklin Regional (14-3, 8-2) closed out the section portion of its regular-season schedule with a 2-0 victory Friday at Plum. With the win, the Panthers clinched a second-place finish in Section 3-AAAA in advance in the WPIAL playoffs, which begin next week.

“The kids did a phenomenal job (in) key situations (and) pressure situations,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said. “We were focusing on those sorts of things in practice. We know what Plum brings to the table — they like to play small ball. We went over that, and the kids made plays.”

After struggling in bunt coverages in a 9-1 loss to Plum on April 18, the Panthers' defense frustrated the Mustangs on Friday. Franklin Regional threw out five Plum runners on the basepaths, including three in scoring position.

It began from the first inning, when catcher Brandon Nania threw out would-be basestealer Austin O'Block at second base, and continued throughout. Pitcher Nick DiDiano twice threw runners out at third base on bunt attempts, and Danny McGrath converted a double play at second base after catching a line drive in the third inning.

“It just comes down to execution,” Saddler said. “(The first game), we didn't execute. This game, we showed Plum and we showed everybody else what we're capable of, what we do on a regular basis. In my opinion, that (first) Plum game didn't represent what we do.”

DiDiano scattered six hits and struck out three batters in pitching the complete-game shutout.

The game turned into a pitchers' duel, as Plum freshman Alex Kiriloff held Franklin Regional without a hit through five innings. After Franklin Regional loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the first inning, Kiriloff recorded two strikeouts and a popup to keep the Panthers off the board.

Franklin Regional finally broke the scoreless tie in the sixth inning. Junior Patrick Kukalis led off with a single, moved to third on Nick Vento's base hit and scored on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Nania.

The Panthers added another run in the seventh when Kukalis drew a bases-loaded walk. Franklin Regional completed the shutout after catching O'Block in a rundown between first and second base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“I'll take as little offense as needed to get the win, as long as we get the W,” Saddler said.

The team put up significantly more offense in last Wednesday's 17-16 victory over Central Catholic, as the Panthers and Vikings combined for 46 hits in nine innings of baseball. Franklin Regional held leads of 10-1 and 15-11 but needed extra innings to put away the section champion Vikings.

The Panthers were scheduled to play nonsection games this week against Penn Hills (Tuesday), Latrobe (Wednesday) and Connellsville (Friday). The playoffs will begin next week, and the team is awaiting the news of its first-round opponent.

“You're going to play a great team in the playoffs regardless,” Saddler said. “That's one thing I learned last year and in my three years here. Every team in the WPIAL, even if they're not a playoff team, comes to the table ready to play.

“As far as us going into the playoffs, I like what we've been doing. I know our kids are going to work hard, (and we'll let) the chips fall where they may.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.