NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Franklin senior Steven Luttazi hadn’t had his best performance at the plate, held without a hit through the first seven innings. But his day changed with one swing of the bat.
When the Panthers needed him the most, the senior delivered a clutch two-out single to drive in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth inning. Junior Jake Macchi followed with a monster two-run double and Franklin prevailed from Frothingham Park with a 5-2 decision in eight innings.
“It was a tie ballgame, senior at the plate, a kid who’s worked really hard in the offseason…I feel like he was pressing early on but he let the game come to him and put a good swing on it and sparked us,” said Franklin head coach Zach Brown. “Then Jake followed it up with the big blow.”
Franklin was three outs from earning a win in regulation, but Oliver Ames rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. But instead of wilting, the Panthers responded — all with two outs.
Senior Colby Fitzgibbons drew a two-out walk from the nine hole, and after stealing second, junior Alex Haba took first after another walk. In stepped Luttazi, who laced a 1-0 pitch into center field to bring pinch runner Shane O’Neil home.
Macchi then launched the first pitch he saw into deep left center field resulting in a two-run double and a three-run lead.
“It was one of those early New England high school baseball games,” Brown said. “OA is really well coached, they play a real sound game. We’re lucky to get out of here with an extra inning win. It was a character win for us. We were frustrated with the way we played in the opener, and we let a two-run lead bleed away here but the guys showed a lot of resolve and a lot of character, and we got a lot of contributions from guys up and down the lineup.”
Sophomore Will Pacheco, who escaped a jam in the bottom of the seventh, retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth to earn his first varsity win.
Franklin built a 2-0 lead by scoring solo runs in the top of the second and the third, but Oliver Ames clawed back with a run in the fifth and the tying run in the seventh. OA senior Matt Muir reached with a one-out single, stole second, and came around to score on a double from classmate Nick Zwerle to tie the game.
OA had runners on first and second with one out, but Pacheco got a big strikeout, and Scott Elliott made a nice catch in foul territory in left field to send the game into extras.
“The kids showed a lot of heart there at the end to rally,” said OA head coach Joe Abarr. “We’ll reset…we’ll try to get our timing right with our hitters and then try to figure out our rotation, and see what happens from there.”
Elliott had a hand in both of Franklin’s first two runs. In the top of the second, the junior led off with a single and took second on a fielding error. He took third on a groundout from Jake Noviello and then scored on a bases loaded infield single from Haba to make it 1-0.
Macchi singled to lead off the top of the third and advanced to second base on a balk. Elliott delivered with an RBI double to bring Macchi home for a 2-0 lead.
“Scott has been doing a real nice job,” Brown said. “He’s been working hard, has had great at-bats, really competitive. He’s a hockey guy so he has that hand-eye coordination and we’re just excited with where he’s at.”
Oliver Ames cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the fifth inning. Muir drilled a triple into center field, through the branches of the tree at Frothingham. Muir came home to score on a groundout from Zwerle.
As a team, Oliver Ames posted just five hits.
“A lot of is just timing,” Abarr said. “You see it click with some guys, like Muir today, he came on line. But some of the guys we’re dependent on just haven’t picked up the in-season rhythm yet. The kids will come around…Franklin figured it out in the last inning there.”
Franklin senior Bryan Woelfel got into a nice rhythm over his 6.1 innings of work, allowing five hits while striking out seven.
“Bryan worked really hard in the offseason and was throwing a lot,” Brown said. “He did a good job building up his arm so that he can last longer. Then Will Pacheco came in and slammed the door for us.”
Oliver Ames senior Michael Mulrean had a strong outing in relief for the Tigers, striking out four in four shutout innings of work with just four hits.
“He was phenomenal, I was very impressed with him,” Abarr said of Mulrean. “There were a lot of positives that came out of that game, obviously we want the win, but a lot of guys stepped up and showed what they’re capable of. Mike did awesome, he kept us in the ballgame.”
Oliver Ames (0-2, 0-2) looks to bounce back on the same day when it hits the road to play at New Bedford.