So when head coach Zach Brown looked up at the scoreboard after 3.5 innings and saw a three-run deficit — the first time the Panthers had trailed by that much all season — he knew he was going to learn something new about his team.
Six straight singles and four runs later, the Panthers were back on top, an advantage they would hold the rest of the way in a 4-3 win over the Tigers.
“We talk about it all the time, adding another tool to the toolbox,” Brown said after his team improved to 9-0 on the season. “So knowing that you can come back in a game against a good team is important. The message to the players was that we were going to learn a lot about us as a team. The game doesn’t go according to a script as much as we’d love it to. Taunton is a really good team, they’re the defending state champs so expect nothing less than a really good fight.”
Taunton took the lead with a run in the top of the third and added onto its advantage with two more in the top of the fourth.
Sophomore Ben Jarosz led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single through the left side and junior Jack Marino followed with a base hit through the right side. Sophomore Eisig Chin joined the hit parade with a hit up the middle to bring Jarosz home to get the Panthers on the board.
CJ Jette battled back from an 0-2 count and hit one to the left side that was knocked down by the third baseman but without a play at first, there was no throw which loaded the bases. Freshman Henry DiGiorgio smacked a hard ground back to first that was knocked down but no play could be made and a run crossed to make it 3-2.
“I was a little disappointed yesterday because I felt like we struck out too much,” Brown said. “I felt like we needed to get back to shortening up a little bit, just finding a way with a better two-strike approach. I really do feel like that inning was a pretty good example of that. CJ Jette’s at-bat really stands out to me, he was down two strikes, shortened up, found a way, and hit a hard buy in the five-six hole to keep the inning alive for us. There were a lot of good at-bats there but that one stuck out to me.”
Ryan Gerety then connected on Franklin’s sixth straight single, this one up the middle that plated both Chin and Jette to put the hosts ahead 4-3. Taunton starter Danny MacDougall (6IP, 9H, 1BB, 4ER, 4K) prevented any further damage by getting three straight pop-ups from the heart of Franklin’s lineup to strand runners at second and third.
Franklin turned to the bullpen to replace starter Jacob Jette (5IP, 6H, 2BB, 3ER, 3K), bringing in junior James Kuczmiec to close the door. Kuczmiec and classmate Ethan Voellmicke have been steady, reliable options for the Panthers so far this season.
Kuczmiec got the job done on Tuesday night, retiring the side in order in the top of the sixth. Taunton’s Ty Cali stroked a two-out single to put the tying run on base but Kuczmiec induced a grounder for the final out to get the two-inning save.
“The back end of our bullpen has been really, really good, it’s been a strength for us all year and those two guys (Kuczmiec and Voellmicke) have been really sharp,” Brown said. “They’ve given us great effort and I’m really proud of them both. We’re going to keep relying on them to do those things for us. Anytime they have the ball, we feel pretty good about our chances.”
There wasn’t much happening offensively for either side between the first two innings. Franklin junior Chris Goode drew a one-out walk in the first and made it to third after Nate Cooke reached on an error but MacDougall stranded the runner on third.
The Panthers put runners in scoring position again in the second on a single from Chin and a bunt single from CJ Jette but sophomore Ryan MacDougall got an unassisted out at first and Bretton Heggs made a nice catch in left to keep the game scoreless.
Taunton took the lead in the top of the third when Colby DaCouta ripped a ground-rule double over the field in left field. Cali had his first single of the day to move DaCouta to third and he scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-0. Jacob Jette prevented further damage by getting a strikeout and a ground to strand Cali at second.
In the top of the fourth, junior Dawson Bryce led off with a single up the middle and moved to second on a fielder’s choice for the second out. Sophomore Shawn Cali connected for a double to bring Bryce home to double the lead and Jack Gobin followed with a base hit to bring Cali home for a 3-0 lead.
“It feels like we’re one play away, one inning away,” said Taunton coach Blair Bourque. “We need someone to step up and make a play or make a pitch in those situations. We’re right there we just have to eliminate those big innings, stop the bleeding somehow. We have a great team so we’ll figure it out but it’s a short season so we don’t have as much time. But we’re excited to get back at it again tomorrow and try to figure things out.”
Franklin baseball (6-0 Kelley-Rex, 9-0 overall) is in action on Thursday with another home game, this time against Sharon. Taunton (3-3, 5-4) returns to host North Attleboro on the same day.
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