By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
FRANKLIN, Mass. The Franklin High boys baseball team used a late two-out rally to force extra innings and eventually walked off with a 4-3 win over previously unbeaten Walpole.
Trailing 3-0 heading into the final at-bats, the Panthers were down to their last out. Senior Jake Lyons came through with a single into left, and Ryan Hodgkins followed that up with a single of his own. Tyler Gomes drew a walk, and with the bases loaded and two outs, Josh Macchi singled up the middle to score both Lyons and Hodgkins. With runners at the corners, Bryan Woelfel singled home Gomes to tie the game up at 3-3. After a passed ball, Franklin had runners at second and third, but Walpole managed to get a strikeout to send the game to extra innings.
“Our guys really fought to the end,” said Franklin head coach Zach Brown. “We’ve been kind of scuffling a bit offensively, and it just felt like there was going to be a time where we broke through, and thankfully today it was in the seventh.”
Woelfel came in to pitch in relief in the eighth and induced a 1-6-3 double play after inheriting a runner at first. Woelfel then struck out Sean McCarthy, but a dropped third strike allowed him to reach base safely. Given new life, Brett Lavanchy singled which advanced McCarthy to third, but Tyler Page grounded to Macchi who took it to first himself for the out. In the bottom of the eighth, Franklin had a runner reach second but was picked off.
Woelfel struck out McCelaney to start the top of the ninth, but Andrew Moore singled, and after Cam Martin grounded out Charlie Auditore singled to advance Moore to third. With runners on the corners and two outs, Woelfel struck out Bryan Kraus to end the inning.
Lyons singled to kick off the bottom of the ninth. Tyler Gomes drew a one-out walk, setting up Macchi with runners on first and second. Macchi delivered, singling up the middle to score Lyons and give Franklin the 4-3 win.
“Josh has been a contributor for us for the last couple of years and is a mainstay in the middle of our lineup, so whenever he’s up we feel really good about our chances,” Brown added about Macchi’s 2-5, three RBI performance.
Walpole got on the board first in the bottom of the second when Lavanchy drew a walk and then Tyler Page hit a comebacker right up the middle that hit Franklin pitcher Jake Noviello in the knee and allowed him to reach with a single.
Noviello would manage to stay in the game, much to the benefit of the Panthers. After Page’s hit, an error by Franklin allowed Lavanchy to score from second, but Noviello would get Andrew Moore to ground out to short to end the inning. In the top of the third, the Rebels threatened again after Cam Martin doubled, but Franklin third baseman James Leofanti made a magnificent leaping grab on a line drive by Charlie Auditore that would’ve driven in Martin. Kraus got hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second, but Noviello worked out of it, striking out Brian Gaughan and getting Sean McCarthy to line out to first.
Cam Schlitter completely shut down the Franklin bats early on, as he struck out five batters his first time through the order, only surrendering two hits. In the bottom of the fourth, Franklin threatened when with two outs, Alex Haba walked and then stole second, but in the process he took a shot to the face, and the collision forced both Haba and Walpole shortstop Jack Magane out of the game. A single by Noviello put runners at the corners, but Schlitter picked up his sixth strikeout to escape the jam.
The pitchers duel only continued from there, with Noviello only allowing one baserunner from the fourth through the sixth, while striking out three guys en route to seven total strikeouts in 6.1 innings pitched.
Schlitter would exit in the bottom of the fifth after walking Leofanti and Hodgkins to put runners on first and second, but Walpole’s Matt Danato would get a fly out to left field to end the inning. In the sixth, Danato would allow a two out single to Noviello, who finished the day 2-4 in addition to his stellar performance on the hill, but that would be all.
Tyler Page would lead off the seventh with a single, and then Teddy McCelaney, the injury replacement for Jack Magane, drew a walk. Andrew Moore then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Dylan Hannafin, who pinch ran for Page, and McCelaney. With runners on second and third, Cam Martin laced a single into right field to score both Hannafin and McCelaney and put Walpole up 3-0. Leofanti came in to relieve Noviello, and he immediately picked off Martin and then got Charlie Auditore to fly out to right.
Franklin (3-2) gets back to action Thursday afternoon at 3:45 in Mansfield to take on the 3-2 Hornets.