By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
BROCKTON, Mass. – Once Franklin scored the tying run in the top of the 9th inning during Thursday’s MIAA Super 8 semi-final against Central Catholic, and got two quick outs in the bottom of the inning, the game seemed primed for extra innings.
But Central Catholic’s next batter, Vanderbilt-commit Dom Keegan, had other ideas, as he sent a ball high off the wall in left-center field before coasting into third with a triple. Steve Hajjar was hit by a pitch, which set the stage for Mike Borrelli.
Borrelli grounded to shortstop, but the throw was wide and looked like it would get by Franklin first baseman Steve Luttazi and give Central a walk-off win. Instead, Luttazi made an incredible pick and held the bag, retiring Borrelli and keeping Franklin alive.
The Panthers capitalized, scoring two runs in the top of the tenth, and winning 6-5, to advance to the Super Eight Final.
“Steve’s been a rock for us defensively over there all year,” said Franklin manager Zach Brown. “Honestly, I think he gives our infielders tremendous confidence to get the ball in the air and get it around him and he’s going to take care of the rest,”
“We had two outs, it was a tie game, looking good, then Keegan gets on third which was a little bit scary, then the play was just a grounder, simple pick, I’ve been doing it for awhile, it was just reactionary, I didn’t feel any pressure, just got the play done and I was excited we got the out,” Luttazi said.
In the top of the 10th, Jack Nally led off with an infield single and advanced to second on a sac bunt from Luttazi. JB Floris was hit by a pitch, and Evan Wendell drew a walk which loaded the bases for Colby Fitzgibbons.
Fitzgibbons’ grounder to third was mishandled which allowed Nally to score to give Franklin a 5-4 lead. In their next at-bat, Franklin got a very important insurance run, as Scott Elliott’s sac fly scored Floris to put the Panthers up 6-4.
In the bottom of the 10th, Bryan Woelfel got two quick outs before walking Sean Thompson and then hitting Mike LeFebre to put the winning run at the plate in Joey Sanchez. Sanchez singled home Thompson from second, but Woelfel battled back to strike out Jake Delaney and give Franklin a 6-5 win.
“I love closing,” Woelfel said. “I was a closer my sophomore year and most of last year, I just started starting this year. I’m pretty used to that situation and I just love having the pressure in my hands going into the last outs of the game.”
Woelfel’s been one of Franklin’s best pitchers all year, and that was no different on Thursday night, as he went four innings to earn the win in relief, allowing just two hits and striking out three.
“He’s just a tremendous competitor. He’s a fiery, fiery kid, and when he has the ball in his hand, we feel really good,” Brown said about Woelfel
Franklin scored their first three runs of the game in the top of the second inning, with Nally and Luttazi both hitting singles, while Floris reached on a bunt single. With the bases loaded, Evan Wendell hit a two-run single to center, and Fitzgibbons’ sac fly scored Floris. Franklin had 16 hits in the game, all of which were singles.
The Panthers had the chance to break the game open in the top of the third, loading the bases with no outs. But a grounder allowed a throw home for the force out and then another infield grounder was turned into a double play.
“We were putting good swings on it, we were giving ourselves chances, and we just weren’t able to get that one big hit to kind of break it open for us, but to our guys’ credit, they just keep grinding, they keep believing, they’re really resilient,” Brown said.
Central Catholic had their offensive breakthrough in the bottom of the third with Sanchez leading off the inning with a double and later coming around to score on a two-out double by Hajjar. Borrelli singled home Hajjar, and a walk by Mike Pierro set up Central with runners on first and second. Noah Lucier and Sean Thompson hit back-to-back RBI singles to put Central up 4-3, a lead that would hold until the top of the ninth.
In the top of the ninth, Fitzgibbons reached on an error, but a fly out and a strikeout brought Franklin down to their last out.
Jack Macchi singled to put runners on first and second for Cooper Ross, who hit a blooper into left field that hung in the air long enough to allow pinch runner Joe Lizotte to score from second. Macchi went to advance to third on the throw home, but the throw to third was wide and went into left field which gave Macchi the opportunity to head towards the plate, but he was cut down on the relay from Central Catholic and tagged out at home.
With the win, Franklin baseball moves to the Super 8 final, where they will play the winner of Central Catholic and BC High. Whoever wins that game will have to beat Franklin twice to win the Super 8, as Franklin is the only unbeaten team remaining in the tournament. The date and time for Franklin’s next game has yet to be announced.
“We’re fired up, we’re ready to go for the next one,” Woelfel said about Franklin’s mentality. “It feels nice to get there, but we’re not satisfied.”
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