Franklin Scores Late To Claim First Ever Super 8 Title

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Franklin poses with its MIAA D1A State Championship trophy after beating Central Catholic. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter

BROCKTON, Mass. – Throughout Franklin’s run in the 2018 MIAA Super 8 Tournament, every game has come down to the late innings.

That held true on Monday night, as Franklin scored the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning to beat Central Catholic, 3-2, and win the 2018 Super 8 title, the program’s first state title since 1986.

“This is the most resilient team I’ve ever seen”, said Franklin starter Bryan Woelfel. “Somebody punches us, we go down a couple of runs, it’s happened every game we’ve had, then people just step up in big spots and just get us right back to where we need to be.”

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One of those spots came in the bottom of the eighth, as after a superb performance from Woelfel (7 IP, 7 H, 7 K), Jake Noviello entered the game in relief with runners on second and third, no outs, and the game tied up at 2-2.

Noviello struck out Sean Thompson looking and followed by punching out Mike Lefebvre. Joey Sanchez was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Noviello bounced back and struck out Dante Pistone looking to strand the runners and give Franklin a chance to take the lead n the top of the ninth.

“I pitched against them the other day and got hit around one inning, so I knew to just come out and come after them,” Noviello said. “I just tried to give them my best stuff, and tried to gas them up.”

“There’s no other guy in the state that’s going to go into that situation and strike out three straight batters like Jake Noviello did, that’s unbelievable,” Woelfel said about his teammate.

Franklin (21-5) took advantage of the momentum a half inning late in the top of the ninth when Steve Luttazi led off with a single.

With Noviello at the dish, Central Catholic tried to backpick Luttazi, but the throw ended up in right field and Luttazi was able to advance to third. After a groundout, the stage was set for Evan Wendell.


Wendell laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt that allowed Luttazi to sprint home and score and give Franklin a 3-2 lead.

“Coach told me to bunt when I first got up there, he gave me the sign for the squeeze, and then they met at the mound and conferenced, so he called me over he said ‘you know what, they’re probably talking about this exact situation, so we’re gonna call it off for the first one,’ we did that,” Wendell said.

“They definitely thought it was a squeeze, he threw me a dirt ball, so then we did it the next pitch, and it worked. We practice that every day, so big kudos to coach right there, that was great coaching to call it off on the first pitch and then do it the second one.”

“He’s tough as nails, and I just had a feeling he was going to find a way, find a way for us, senior veteran, and I just wanted to give him an opportunity to knock it in a run, and to his credit, he executed the play to perfection,” said Franklin coach Zach Brown on Wendell.

In the bottom of the ninth, Noviello had to face the heart of the Central Catholic order, with Dominic Keegan, Steve Hajjar, and Mike Borrelli due up.

Keegan gave the Franklin faithful a scare with a bomb down the right field line, but it was a couple yards to the right of the foul pole. He ended up walking to lead off the inning, but Noviello got Hajjar to fly out to center and struck out Borrelli.

Mike Pierro hit a single into right to put the winning run on first, but Noviello struck out Noah Lucier to end the game and give Franklin their first baseball state championship in 32 years.

Franklin’s seniors were the ones came through in the late innings, with Woelfel, Noviello, Luttazi, and Wendell all playing huge parts in the win.

“It’s just a really special class, a really special group of kids, I love them, they know I love them, we talk about a lot more than just baseball,” Brown said about his seniors. “The thing I’m most happy with this group is now they’re going to be forever connected because of this state championship, and years from now when they see each other they’ll always have this moment together.”

Franklin’s offense got started in the top of the first when Colby Fitzgibbons singled on the first pitch of the game and was hit home when juniorJake Macchi homered to left field to give Franklin a 2-0 lead, a lead they held until the fourth inning.

Macchi almost had extra bases again in the top of the third, but a spectacular catch by Central Catholic left fielder Sean Thompson robbed Macchi of at least a double.

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In the top of the fourth, Franklin loaded the bases, but Aidan Abernathy, who came on in relief of starter Noah Lucier after a Luttazi double, was able to get out of the jam.

In the bottom of the fourth, Pierro led off with a walk and came around to score on a double by Thompson. Thompson advanced to third on an error and scored on a groundout by Joey Sanchez to tie the game at 2-2.

With the win, Franklin baseball becomes the fourth team to win a baseball Super Eight title (Newton North, Braintree twice, St. John’s Shrewsbury). Franklin was also the last team selected for the tournament this year, and as the #7 seed, is the lowest seed to ever win the tournament. Franklin did not lose a game in its tournament run.

Noviello and Woelfel Pair Up to Fire Franklin to Title

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Franklin’s Bryan Woelfel (left) and Jake Noviello combined to pitch the Panthers past Central Catholic. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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BROCKTON, Mass. – In the bottom of the eighth inning in Monday night’s Super 8 final at Brockton’s Campanelli Stadium, it looked like Central Catholic had finally figured out Franklin starter Bryan Woelfel. A single and a double put two runners in scoring position with nobody out in a tie game.

Franklin coach Zach Brown decided that he needed to make a change and called in third baseman Jake Noviello. The Fairfield University-commit had been warming up during the Panthers at-bats just in case and was now called on to try and get out of the ultimate high-leverage situation.

“We had a shot,” said Brown about how he felt bringing in his ace in that situation. “I felt like it was a spot in the order and just knowing Jake and knowing his competitiveness I thought we had a shot.”

Noviello explained, “I pitched against them the other day and I got hit around in one inning, so I knew to just come at them tonight and just try to gas them up.” He added with a shake of his head, as the accomplishment settled in, “It’s unbelievable, unbelievable.”

He struck out the first two batters he faced in the eighth. He hit the third batter to load the bases but then closed out the inning with another strikeout in an impressive relief appearance. The first player out of the dugout to greet Noviello as he stalked off the field was Woelfel, his best friend since kindergarten.

“It’s happened a couple of times in big games and big spots,” Woelfel said about Noviello coming in to close out games for him. “There’s nobody we else we want on the mound for those final outs than Jake.”

Noviello said of Woelfel, “I owe him. I owe him big time. He’s been freaking nails all year. I love him like my brother, we’ve been friends forever and I’m just so freaking proud that we’re going out this way…as champions.”

A squeeze bunt put the Panthers ahead in the top of the ninth and Noviello was back on the mound to try and seal the win. A lead-off walk gave the Raiders hope and Central Catholic would put two on in the ninth but Noviello closed the door with another strikeout.

Franklin, the last team chosen for the Super 8 field and the No. 7 seed overall, was the champion and had done it without losing a game in the tournament. The Panthers leaned on their senior pitchers throughout the tournament with Noviello and Woelfel appearing in all four games and managing to shut down some of the top lineups in the state.


“I knew that a lot was going to be called on Bryan and I and I was just really focused on taking care of my arm, icing it every night,” Noviello said. “Just trying to do everything I could to help these guys. They’ve given everything they had all year. This is just the best possible ending I can think of.”

Despite having thrown a few innings of relief against Central Catholic in the winner’s bracket final, Woelfel never doubted that he would be ready to go against the Raiders again on Monday.

“I told coach yesterday, he was toeing the line between me and Jason [Ulrickson] who was going to pitch, and I told him I want the ball, my arm feels great,” Woelfel said. “Honestly, if my arm didn’t feel great I was going to say the same thing. I wanted the ball.”

Brown said of Woelfel, “He’s been an animal. He’s really been this way his whole career. He’s really selfless. I used to say that he’s the most underrated player in the Hock, I think I can kind of put that one to bed. He’s just nails.”

If there was any sign of tiring, Woelfel overcame it as he gutted out seven-plus innings before handing the ball over to his best friend. “It’s time to return the favor,” Brown joked about Noviello coming into get Woelfel out of a jam.

“Jake’s unbelievable and deserves everything he gets in terms of accolades,” Brown added, “Bryan has done a lot of dirty work over the years for him and it was just fitting to watch those two guys today.”

The two friends combined to throw 35-1/3 innings (all but 1-2/3 innings) over the course of four games. Woelfel won two, beating St. John’s Prep and Central Catholic (in relief), and Noviello won the others, including the opener against Wachusett and Monday’s final (in relief).

“We’re definitely going to celebrate this one,” said Noviello. “It’s something we had talked about as captains. Obviously you have goals and some of them you think might be unattainable but for some reason this team just never gave up and kept fighting to the end.

Franklin Rallies To Punch Ticket To Super 8 Final

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Franklin players celebrate after recording the final out to beat Central Catholic and advance to the Super 8 Final. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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.

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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.

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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.”

Franklin Ousted By Concord-Carlisle in D1 East Semis

By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter

FRANKLIN, Mass. – A year ago, Franklin beat Concord-Carlisle in the D1 East Final. This year the teams met a round earlier, in the semi-final, and not only were the stakes different, but the result was as well, as Concord-Carlisle pulled off a 14-10 win in a back and forth game that featured four ties and five lead changes.

“They knocked us on our butts last year, they physically took it to us, but I think it was a learning experience for us, we really had something to prove today and I think we did an outstanding job,” said Concord-Carlisle coach Paul Morrison.

Franklin started out the game strong, with two good goal opportunities early, but two great saves by Natalie Slade turned the Panthers away. They were eventually able to capitalize, with goals from Kelsey MacCallum and Katie Jones giving Franklin a 2-0 advantage early on.

But, when C-C switched to Fallon Vaughn on the draw, the Patriots went on a huge run of draw controls, taking a 9-3 advantage in that category at the end of the first half. After MacCallum put Franklin up 3-1, Concord-Carlisle went on a four-goal run from 9:08 to 7:22 in the first half.

“Offensively, we were patient, especially when they went up by a couple in the first half, we didn’t rush it down there, we were patient, and we got good looks,” Morrison added

Franklin was able to cut the lead to 5-4 after Annie Walsh found Katie Jones, but a play that might have been the turning point occurred with just over three minutes to go in the first half when, after a Gianna Cameron save, Payton Vaughn read the clear pass perfectly, picked it off, and cashed in to put C-C up 6-4.

Franklin was able to get one back, however, as Jones scored her third of the game with 1:13 left in the half to cut the halftime lead to 6-5.

Erin Walsh came out ready to play for Franklin the second half, scoring back-to-back goals and assisting on a Jones goal that put Franklin up 8-6.

Payton Vaughn and Evelyn Karl scored for C-C to tie the game up, but MacCallum helped Franklin regain the lead at 9-8 with her second goal of the game. C-C got right back in it though, as Karl scored her second goal of the game and Payton Vaughn went on a three-goal run by herself to put Concord-Carlisle up 12-9 with 7:50 to play.

“We’ve talked about focus for about a week and just doing the little things,” Morrison said about his team’s energy. “Just doing the little things, go to the game and let it come to you.”

With the game at 12-9, Erin Walsh scored her third of the game to cut the lead, but back-to-back goals by Evelyn Karl finished off Franklin and gave the Patriots a 14-10 win and a bid to their second straight sectional final.

Concord-Carlisle will face Walpole in the D1 East Final after the Rebels Lincoln-Sudbury on Monday night. Franklin ends its season with a 14-6 record, but the future is promising for the Panthers with multiple underclassmen on their roster.

“We’re definitely going to miss our seniors, we thank them for everything we’ve done, but we do have a young team but hopefully a loss like this motivates us to work harder in the offseason and come back and get back here and win this game,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino about the Panthers’ youth going forward.

Panthers Roar Past Prep and Into Super 8 Semifinal

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Alex Haba (1) and JB Floris (12) celebrate Scott Elliot’s eighth inning triple that drove in three runs, including the eventual game-winner. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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BROCKTON, Mass. – Franklin has come into the Super 8 with a chip on its shoulder. The last team selected for the elite tournament field, the Panthers are not out to prove that they belong but that they should be one of the teams to beat.

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After knocking off second seed Wachusett in the opening round, Franklin squared off with perennial power St. John’s Prep, the third seed, at Brockton’s Campanelli Stadium. It came down to the last out, as these games so often do, but after Jake Noviello induced a weak grounder to second, the Panthers walked away with a 7-6 victory and a spot in the semifinal.

“We were the last team into this tournament, so we’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said Franklin coach Zach Brown about playing the underdog in the Super 8.

Bryan Woelfel closed out the win against the Mountaineers just three days earlier, but he was given the ball to start against Prep and it looked as though his start was going to be a short one after the Eagles plated three runs in the third to take the lead for the first time.

“They got to me a little bit in the third, it was just a matter of getting it clicked down in the zone, slowing myself down,” Woelfel explained. “We have a hell of a field out there and we’re going to make the plays out there, so I just had to get it down in the zone, let them hit the ball.”

After that inning, Woelfel held Prep to just three hits (one an infield single) and no runs over the next four and picked up the win. It was a resilient outing for the senior, but one that his coach has come to expect from his pitcher.

“Bryan has been doing this his whole career,” said Brown. “My concern, honestly, wasn’t about him having a rough inning, it was, is he tired. Did the opportunity the other day take something out of him. He said, ‘I feel great, I’m just a little off…I need to be better and I will be,’ and he went out the next inning and he was.”

The Panthers could have been crushed by that three-run burst by Prep in the third. Franklin took the lead in its first at-bat, after back-to-back walks to Scott Elliot and Alex Haba and a bobbled grounder put runners at second and third with two outs. Cooper Ross provided the big hit with a single to right-center that scored both.

In the bottom of the first Prep got one back with an unearned run. A two-out error allowed Alex Lane to reach and Mike Yarin (4-for-5, three RBI) brought him home with a single to right. Franklin had two runners on in the second and had a runner at third with one out in the third, but failed to score in either inning.

In the bottom of the third, a walk, an infield hit, a walk, back-to-back singles (including a two-RBI hit from Lane) and a sacrifice fly by Jacob Bolger made it 4-2 and seemed to swing the momentum to the Catholic Conference side.

But, Steven Luttazi led-off the top of the fourth with a towering blast to right that cut the lead in half and instantly changed the mood on the Franklin bench.

“You never want to spit the bit with the lead and give a team like the Prep, which is absolutely loaded, an opportunity to get back in the game and take the lead,” Brown said. “Steven coming right back to put one on the board and make it a one-run game really kind of put the dugout at ease and we felt we were in striking distance.”

“That fires us up,” Woelfel added. “That got us going. I don’t think the game would’ve ended the same way if he didn’t do that.”

Woelfel followed up that homer by getting Prep in order to keep the energy high. In the fifth, Haba started a rally with a double that one-hopped the fence in left center. Jake Macchi moved him over with a sac bunt and two batters later Jack Nally made it pay off with a sac fly to left that tied the game at 4-4.

In the bottom of the seventh, Woelfel closed out his outing by getting the side in order, although the final out was a loud one, as Yarin pushed Nally all the way to the wall in right center. The Franklin centerfielder reached up with his back against the wall to pull in a long out.

Luttazi drew a one-out walk to start a rally in the eighth. J.B. Floris pinch-hit for Noviello and was hit on the arm. After an infield pop up that was dropped off the bat of Evan Wendell, both runners were able to move into scoring position with two outs. Colby Fitzgibbons drew a walk to load the bases for Elliot and he cleared them, driving a ball into center for a triple that put the Panthers back in front.

Brown said, “It was just an awesome at-bat. He stayed within himself, great approach, got a fastball that was a little up and put a great swing on it and really backspun it and it came at a huge time for us.”

Reliever Jason Ulrickson gave up a pair of hits in the eighth, but was able to escape a first-and-third, one-out jam. In the ninth, facing the top of the Prep lineup, Ulrickson got a comebacker, a single, and a fielder’s choice to get within one out of the save. Yarin made sure that there was some drama to the finish, crushing a ball to right and cutting the lead to just one.

“We have a ton of confidence in Jason Ulrickson,” Brown explained. “We also knew we had this opportunity with Noviello where we had him hot and had him ready just in case the tying run was going to come to the plate.”

Noviello, the Fairfield University-commit, had warmed up a little between innings and moved from third to the mound to close it out. He allowed a single but then got the grounder to Fitzgibbons that keeps the Panthers in the winner’s bracket.

While Franklin is relishing its underdog role in the Super 8, Brown knows that his team is capable of playing at this level.

He said, “These aren’t guys who are doing something they haven’t been doing all year, they’re just guys that are doing what they’ve been doing and continuing to do it on a bigger stage.”

Franklin (19-5) will face Central Catholic in the semifinal on Wednesday at Campanelli Stadium at 7:00.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.