The Panthers have plated 51 runs in their current seven game win streak, an average of over seven per game, and got off to a hot start once again on Friday in a 6-2 win over Foxboro.
Franklin scored two runs in the top of the first and third innings and added single runs in the fourth and the fifth. Foxboro’s lone strike came in the bottom of the third inning.
“It’s always great when you can come out and put a couple runs up on the board early and I felt like we did a good job extending that lead,” Franklin head coach Zach Brown said. “To be complement that on defense, we had some shut down innings after we scored some runs, I thought that was important. Not to be ungrateful but I thought we could have been a little cleaner in terms of our execution.”
Franklin senior Nick Santucci was hit by a pitch in the game’s first at-bar and moved to third on a hit and run single through the right side from junior Jake Lyons. Ryan Hodgkins connected for an RBI single through the left side. A fielder’s choice forced Lyons out at third but Mike Skaza popped out to center for a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
Foxboro starter Colin Theoner limited the Panthers to just a single hit in the second inning but the Panthers’ offense cashed in again in the third. Hodgkins, Tyler Gomes and Josh Macchi drew consecutive walks to start the top of the third. Skaza grounded into a fielder’s choice but it was enough to bring Hodgkins across the plate and move Gomes over. Joe Corsi popped up for a sacrifice fly to bring in Gomes to make it 4-0.
The Warriors responded in the bottom half of the inning but weren’t able to pull even. Franklin starter Jake Noviello got the lead off man with one of his four strikeouts but issued a one out walk to Foxboro’s AJ Bubencik. After inducing a fly ball to center for an out, Jesse Galanti singled into right field for the team’s first hit. Darren Kelly then roped a two-out, two-run triple off a full count to cut the deficit in half.
A two-out single from Jake Lyons turned into a run in the fourth inning for the Panthers. Lyons stole second and Hodgkins connected for a ground ball into right field for a single. The ball eluded the right fielder though and Lyons rounded third and scampered in for a run to make it 5-2.
It looked like Foxboro’s offense was going to cash in for the second straight inning in the bottom of the fourth. After reaching on a fielder’s choice, sophomore Chad Bearce moved to third when Cam Feldman reached on an error. Bubencik connected at the next at-bat for what looked like would be an RBI single but Franklin’s Hodgkins dove in for the catch to keep the lead.
“During this stretch, we’ve been playing well defensively and doing a good job of making all the routine plays,” Brown said. “Honestly, Ryan making that play, that wasn’t a routine play. That was a little bit above and beyond but it was a big spot for us in the game. We’ve been talking with Ryan about being more aggressive defensively recently, he’s a very gifted athlete. He had a good day offensively too and I think that carried over to his defense too.”
“With seven inning games, the momentum swings quickly and it’s definitely a factor, especially in high school baseball,” Foxboro head coach Chris Sullivan said. “I talked to our guys about creating it ourselves but we missed a lot of fast balls over the plate. It was a pretty stark contrast in terms of the energy that [Franklin] brought compared to us. We haven’t brought the same consistent approach every game and it’s impossible to win games in the Hockomock if you don’t do that, it’s hard enough if you do. We haven’t learned that lesson yet today.”
Two more walks to start the fifth inning helped Franklin add another run. Skaza and Corsi drew consecutive walks but a fielder’s choice forced Skaza out. A walk to Alex Bissanti loaded the bases for Franklin and Santucci cashed in with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2.
“We preach a lot about balance and being able to be doing a bunch of different things,” Brown said. “We don’t want to be identified as a team that just does ‘blank.’ Instead we like to think we can do a bunch of different things and I think we did that today.”
Noviello earned the win for the Panthers, tossing 4.2 innings with two earned runs allowed. Franklin lefty Ryan Morse came in to get the final out of the fifth inning and pitched two shutout innings to close the game.
“Jake came in and did a good job. He labored a bit towards the end but then we turned it over to Ryan. Ryan did a great job nailing it down for us and getting some big outs in some big spots.”
Thoener, who was making his first start of the season after dealing with injuries, pitched five innings while Andrew Block pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh for the Warriors.
“We didn’t play bad today, we didn’t boot the ball around on defense,” Sullivan added. “We didn’t expect Colin to throw a shutout in his first start of the year but we’re just not stepping it up offensively when we need to. The difference was that they barreled up a few more balls than we did. When they needed a hit, they got one. We played okay today but you can’t play just okay against a team like Franklin.”
Franklin improves to 12-7 overall and 10-5 in league play. The Panthers will conclude league play on Monday when they host King Philip. Foxboro falls to 7-10 overall and 5-9 in the league. The Warriors will travel to Oliver Ames on Monday before hosting North Attleboro on Tuesday.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.