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Franklin Regional looking to bounce back from losses

Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional's Will Constantine turns a double play as Baldwin's Chris Eisel slides into the base Monday, April 7, 2014, at Haymaker Park in Murrysville. Baldwin won 13-2 in five innings.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

After beginning the season on a high note, the Franklin Regional baseball team finds itself in a bit of a rut.

The Panthers dropped their second game in a row Monday afternoon, falling to Baldwin, 13-2, in both teams' section opener. The Highlanders scored the first 10 runs of the game, and the mercy rule ended the contest after the fifth inning.

Franklin Regional began the season with three straight victories in its annual Florida trip, but the team was winless in its first two games back in Pennsylvania. The Panthers lost, 6-0, to Penn-Trafford in a nonsection contest March 28.

Despite the recent results, Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler doesn't expect losing to become a trend.

“I'm sure these guys are going to bounce back,” Saddler said. “They don't like to lose. They don't want to lose. They're not accustomed to that. The last two games don't tell the story of this team, and I know it won't tell the story of this season.”

The Panthers (3-2, 0-1 Section 3-AAAA) rely on several upperclassmen who played significant roles in the team's back-to-back playoff appearances in 2012 and 2013. Saddler said that type of experience would help the team now.

“They've lost a couple games before,” Saddler said. “Baseball is a long season; you can't get too high, and you can't get too low. We come back up from Florida, and we have three wins under our belt — you can't get too high because what happens is you get knocked down. You've just got to maintain consistency throughout the year, and if we continue to do that I like our chances (of) where we'll be at the end of the season.”

Saddler said the team played efficient baseball in Florida, with the defense playing virtually mistake-free and the pitchers limiting walks.

Monday, walks and fielding miscues in the first inning allowed Baldwin to score seven runs. Franklin Regional starter Justin Johnson left with one out in the inning after giving up five runs. Reliever Alex Gessinger hit the first batter he faced with a pitch, forcing in a run, and a missed infield popup allowed the seventh run to score.

“We have to minimize mistakes in the field, and we can't give free passes,” Saddler said. “That's the name of the game right now. We can't give teams outs, and we can't give them baserunners. If we minimize that, then we'll be there in the end.”

The Panthers also had their second straight slow game at the plate against Baldwin after managing just one hit in the Penn-Trafford loss.

“I like our hitting,” Saddler said. “I don't think the last two games tell the story of what we're capable of at the plate. But at the same time, we can't keep reverting back to last year: ‘Last year, we did this.' Last year is over. This team needs a new identity. It has a new face with new seniors ... I have no reason to believe that they're not going to bounce back.”

This week's slate of games provided the Panthers plenty of opportunities to rebound. Franklin Regional was scheduled to make up a rained-out game at McKeesport on Tuesday afternoon and travel to Gateway on Wednesday night. Both games ended past the deadline for this week's edition. Franklin Regional will host defending section champion Central Catholic at 4 p.m. Friday and will play Seneca Valley on Saturday morning at PNC Park.

After the Panthers finished in second place in a tight section race last season, Saddler believes the Panthers have the ability to prevail this year.

“I don't know what the section's going to bring,” Saddler said. “I do know this: that if you do not have your ‘A' game and you look past an opponent on any given day, you can get it handed it to you. I'm not saying we looked past Baldwin, but at the same time, it's on me that I didn't get these guys up, get them ready.

“We've got to refocus. ... We expect to be there in the end. Who's there with us doesn't really matter to me.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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