MANSFIELD, Mass. – With the bases loaded and the go-ahead run at the plate for the visiting Franklin Panthers, Mansfield head coach Joe Breen had no hesitation going to sophomore John Carney in the big moment.
Carney needed just four pitches to get the third out — a ground ball to third — to help the Hornets escape from further damage. The sophomore right-hander was just one of many players that stepped up and delivered for the Hornets in a 10-3 victory.
There was also senior Justin Pena, who had two hits, two RBI and two runs scored.
And senior Mike Hargadon, who was pivotal in getting the Mansfield offense going from the nine-hole with the teams’ first two hits.
And of course senior Tyler Dalton, the Hornets’ right-handed starting pitcher that struck out 10 batters in 5.2 innings of work, allowing just five hits to earn the win on the mound. And on top of that, Dalton had a big two-RBI single that sparked a five-run fifth inning for the Hornets.
“Our guys have really battled the last couple of weeks, they aren’t afraid of any challenge at this point, and today was no different,” said Mansfield head coach Joe Breen. “Franklin is one of the top teams in the state and Jake Noviello is one of the top pitchers in the state.
“If you told me we’d put up 10 runs today, you would have fooled me. We knew we had a big challenge with Jake on the mound. He certainly pitched well but our guys kept battling and found a way to get the barrel on the ball, had some great at-bats, and put ourselves in position to score some runs.”
Franklin scored a run in the first inning but Mansfield tied the game with a run in the third game. It wasn’t until Dalton’s big hit in the fifth that the Hornets had a lead; from there Mansfield’s offense was clicking.
Dan Saraceno led off the bottom of the fifth with a single and moved to third on a deep fly ball to left field from Kevin Dow that just landed fair. Dalton plated them both with a single and took second on the throw. Pena delivered with a soft line drive down the left field line to score Dalton.
Kyle Moran reached on an infield error and both Pena and Moran moved up a base because of the error. Sophomore Chris Jenkins came up clutch with a single to bring both Pena and Moran home, making it 6-1.
“And one big difference this game is that last time, we had a decent amount of baserunners but we didn’t do anything with them. Today we did, we had time timely hits. Tyler Dalton, Justin Pena, Kyle Moran…guys just stepped up and had big hits when we needed them.”
Franklin’s offense responded in the top half of the sixth inning but ended up leaving the bases loaded. A one-out single from Scott Elliott and walks to Alex Haba and Jake Macchi loaded the bases for the Panthers.
Cooper Ross had a nice at-bat that resulted in a single through the right side for a run and Steven Luttazi drew a two-out walk to bring in another room.
Breen brought Carney in for Dalton (5.2 IP, 5 H, 10 K) and the sophomore came up big, getting the third out to leave the bases loaded.
“We have all the confidence in the world in Carney,” Breen said. “He is a sophomore but anyone that’s seen him pitch one or two times knows what a competitor he is. Anytime I look around when a starter gets tired, the first set of eyes I see are his, he wants the ball. That says a lot for a sophomore.”
The Hornets took advantage of one of Franklin’s five errors in the bottom half of the inning. Sophomore Will Pacheco sandwiched a walk and a hit batter between two outs. It looked like the Panthers would get out of the inning unscathed when Pacheco induced a ground ball, but an infield error allowed Saraceno to score and Dow to take third.
Dow then scored on a wild pitch and Cullin Anastasia went from first to third after a throwing error. Pena singled Anastasia in and a double from Moran plated Pena to make it 10-3.
“It was just uncharacteristic of us today,” said Franklin coach Zach Brown. “Don’t take anything away from Mansfield, they played great and competed hard. Some of the errors were forced but we had some mental mistakes, some walks, things like that that we haven’t been doing all year. When you’re playing a good team, the margin of error is slim and you have to make sure that you minimize all those things. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that today but we have to bounce right back because we’re playing a good Attleboro team on Wednesday.
“Both teams had opportunities, and today Mansfield capitalized on their opportunities. Unfortunately we opened the door for them to capitalize a couple of times.”
Franklin took the lead in the top of the first inning when Haba hit one deep to center for a double and then scored when Macchi drilled a bouncer off the third baseman’s glove.
Mansfield behind a leadoff double from Hargadon, a groundout that moved Hargadon to third, and then Dow’s high hit to center field was lost, allowing the ball to drop and Hargadon to cross home.
“We had Michael in the two-hole in the very beginning of the season and it wasn’t that he did poorly to move him down, I think we needed a few more guys on for the top of the order and we just weren’t getting it,” Breen said. “We moved him to the nine-hole and get him a few more fastballs. Today was a breakout day for him.”
Mansfield baseball (9-3 Hockomock, 11-3 overall) moves into a first place tie with the Panthers in the Kelley-Rex division, and with a game in hand. The Hornets are back in action on Wednesday when they host King Philip. Franklin (9-4, 12-4) is scheduled to host Attleboro on the same day.