North Andover Knocks Off Franklin In Super 8 Opener

Franklin baseball Joe Lizotte
Franklin’s Joe Lizotte (3-for-4) connects for a hit in the fifth inning against North Andover. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
FRANKLIN, Mass. – After getting three straight outs to leave the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning, Franklin came to bat in the bottom half with the momentum on its side.

Trailing 5-3 to eighth-seeded North Andover, the top-seeded Panthers found themselves with a chance to potentially tie or win the game in their last at-bats. Dan Markowski led off with a double and Joe Lizotte singled. After a strikeout and a fielder’s choice put runners at the corners, Franklin had senior captain Alex Haba, the Hockomock League’s batting champion and MVP, at the plate.

On a 1-1 count, Haba swung and missed for strike two and senior Scott Elliott, who reached on the fielder’s choice, sprinted and slid into second safely for a stolen base to put the tying run on second base. But before the Elliott could dust off the dirt, the home plate ump signaled for interference at the plate and called the third out, leaving the Panthers at a loss in an opening round matchup of the MIAA Super 8 tournament.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“There’s never one pitch, one swing, one call, one play that defines a game,” said Franklin coach Zach Brown. “The Super 8 is nine innings, 27 outs, and there’s a million opportunities in that game for us to execute better and change the outcome. Yes, I would have liked to have seen that sequence play out with runners at second and third and the league MVP at the plate. I definitely would have liked to have see that play out but that’s not the reality of the situation.

“We’re going to continue to just keep grinding and I certainly feel like we have the ability to dig back in, play good baseball, get back on winning track, and make a run at it.”

While the questionable final call got the majority of the attention, Franklin’s miscues defensively hurt equally as much. The Panthers made two errors in the fifth inning and the Scarlet Knights scored three runs to take a lead that it never relinquished. The visitors tacked on an earned run in the sixth inning and took advantage of walks, steals, and a wild pitch in the seventh to score again.

Both starters had to work around trouble in the first. Franklin junior Brennan Rivera (6IP, 5R 2ER, 5H 3BB, 6K) worked around a two-out walk after striking out the first two batters of the game. North Andover’s Sebastian Keane (7.1IP, 3ER, 8H, 2BB, 1HBP), who was drafted earlier in the day by the Boston Red Sox, allowed hits to Elliott and Haba but got back-to-back outs to prevent any harm.

“Brennan has done a great job for us all year and we’re really proud of his effort today,” Brown said. “He certainly set a great tone and gave us a chance. When he’s on the hill, we’re a confident baseball team. I thought he did a great job getting us to that point in the game. If we make a play here or there for him, maybe the score is a little bit different but we need to move forward and can’t look back. We can learn from it and move forward.”

While Rivera settled into a groove — retiring 11 straight between the first and fifth innings — the Panthers’ offense got to Keane again in the third inning. Joe Lizotte singled from the nine-hole, Jack Nally walked, and Elliott reached on a bunt single up the third base line. Haba drove in the opening run but grounded into a double play and Keane got a strikeout to strand a runner at third.

“We tried to do a lot of things, like shortening the distance with everything and using Major League equivalencies to try and simulate the type of velocity,” Brown said of preparing for Keane. The Panthers had eight hits against him. “Sebastian is a special talent and he’s a great competitor. I’m really proud of our guys, that fought hard and scraped and clawed, and certainly didn’t make it easy on him.”

North Andover got its first hit of the day with one out in the fifth off the bat of Brett Dunham, a single into left. Rivera got a strikeout for the second out but an infield throwing error allowed Justin Connolly to reach and extend the inning. A walk loaded the bases and John McElroy roped a single into left field. The ball eluded the Panther fielder, allowing all three runs to come in and McElroy took third. Rivera stranded the runner there with a fly ball to right.

“We extended a couple of innings where they scored some runs but we never get upset about physical mistakes because our guys are playing hard and aggressive,” Brown said. “I’ll never be upset about a physical mistake, that’s part of the game, those will happen. As long as the mentality is aggressive and guys are playing the game the right way, I have no problems with it. A couple of balls found us in some weird spots but we’ve been pretty sound all year. But there were some times we shot ourselves in the foot.”

Keane reached with a one-out single in the top of the sixth and moved to third on a single from Trevor Crosby. Franklin got the second out with a shallow fly ball caught by Nally in center but Erik Whitehead delivered a two-out grounder up the middle to bring another run to make it 4-1.

A leadoff walk in the top of the seventh forced Brown to go to the bullpen. Tom Finn earned a walk against the bullpen and both runners advanced with stolen bases. A wild pitch allowed John McElroy to scamper home to push the lead to 5-1.

Franklin junior Will Pacheco (2IP, 0R, 0H, 0BB) entered the game in relief with runners on the corners and kept the Panthers’ chances to come back alive with a strong outing. Pacheco induced a fly ball to third, senior catcher Jake Macchi gunned a runner down at second trying to steal, and a grounder to Haba at short ended the threat.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

A perfect top half from Pacheco set Franklin up for success in the bottom half. Nally was hit by a pitch to lead off and Elliott followed with a single. Macchi smacked a one-out single to right to bring both runners in to make it 5-3 and give Franklin some life, knocking Keane from the game. A two-out single from JB Floris put runners at first and second but a fly ball to left was caught for the third out.

Liam Dailey (1IP, 0R, 2H, 1BB, 2K) took over the mound for the Panthers and a pair of singles sandwiched around a walk loaded the bases with no outs for the Scarlet Hawks. But Dailey buckled down, getting back-to-back strikeouts before a fly ball to right field ended the threat.

Franklin baseball (21-2) drops in the Losers (1-Loss) Bracket of the Super 8 tournament and will play the loser of the BC High/Lowell game (Friday) on Saturday at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton with a time to be announced.

Warriors Three-Peat Bid Comes Up Just Short

King Philip football
King Philip junior Ryan Halliday breaks through the North Andover defensive line in the Div. 2 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – There were still many who expected North Andover, with its perfect record and high-powered offense, to be too much for King Philip in Friday night’s Div. 2 Super Bowl and the Warriors were going to struggle to stay with the Scarlet Knights.

You would think that at this point, after three straight trips to Gillette Stadium and 33 wins combined over the past three seasons, people would know better than to underestimate KP.

With 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Warriors got the ball back at their own 26 trailing just 6-0. Robert Jarest scrambled from one side of the field all the way back to his left and hit Tim Nault right on the sideline for a first down. On the next play the pair connected again for another 13 yards into North Andover territory. With the clock down to 11 seconds, Jarest found DDavid Morganelli in front of his own bench for 13 yards to the Knights 34.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

With six seconds left on the clock, KP had one last chance to complete an unlikely three-peat. But, North Andover defensive back Michael Roche ruined the storybook ending by chasing down Jarest for a game-ending and title-winning sack that handed the Scarlet Knights their first Super Bowl title since 1994.

“They keep rallying back,” KP coach Brian Lee said of his team. He added that Roche impressed him on film in the build up to the game, calling him “a real dude,” and he was aware of the North Andover senior but couldn’t change the play at that moment. Lee said, “We were a little disjointed, not having another timeout to get it the way we wanted to and to realize he was on this side and we rolled out into him.”

There was certainly disappointment on the King Philip (9-3) side after the loss, having two long drives end just outside the red zone and having the lone North Andover touchdown come off the lone turnover for the Warriors, but Lee credited his players for beating all the expectations for the season.

Lee said, “They really weren’t supposed to be anything this year. To get back here with these guys and to play that way, I mean especially on ‘D’ to shut them down again, we play so well on ‘D’ on this field…”

He added, “It was just a great job competing by our guys. I’m so proud of them.”

KP got the ball first and put together exactly the type of drive that has become synonymous with the Warriors during Lee’s coaching tenure. Junior Ryan Halliday (29 carries, 97 yards) got the ball on all but one of the 12 plays and marched KP all the way to the North Andover 25. On fourth and four, the Warriors called for a fake field goal and Cole Baker found an open receiver on the far sideline but the ball couldn’t be pulled in.

Jack Webster leapt to bat down a third down pass attempt and end the Scarlet Knights first drive, but KP went three-and-out when it got the ball back.

On the North champion’s next drive, Jake McElroy started to get things going through the air, connecting with Gabriel DeSouza for 33 yards to the KP 32. Three plays later, on third and two, McElroy (10-16, 117 yards) appeared to have an open receiver but the ball slipped through his hands and Nault was on hand to pick it off.

The momentum from the interception lasted only two plays. Halliday was hit hard on a toss to the left and Darren Watson recovered the fumble at the KP seven. It took four plays before McElroy punched it in from one yard out, and it took a great second effort just to get the ball across the line. The extra point was blocked.

“That call was dumb,” Lee admitted. “That was my fault and it put the defense in a bad spot. Even so, fourth and one I thought we had them there. That call was the wrong call and put the defense in a bad way, but besides that they did everything they were supposed to do. I really think if we don’t make that mistake then we shut them out.”

North Andover started the second half with the ball, but Shawn Conniff ended the drive by busting into the backfield to stop Watson for a one-yard loss on third and one. KP got the ball at its own six and proceeded to grind out another long drive.

Halliday had been largely contained since the first possession but he broke runs of 17, 10, and 11 yards to get the Warriors going. A Jarest scramble turned into a 12-yard weaving run that got KP down to the North Andover 23. Facing fourth and 10, Jarest slipped as he rolled out and although he recovered his footing wasn’t able to hook up with Morganelli on a comeback route.

Again, the KP defense did its job to get the ball back quickly, including a big play by Morganelli busting up a screen pass for a seven-yard loss.

North Andover coach John Dubzinski said of the KP defense, “They were so good up front. They were good on the perimeter, they were good inside. They covered our receivers well, very well. They’re a good football team. We beat a good football team.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

After a pass was knocked away from Morganelli, the Warriors had fourth and eight from the Scarlet Knights 43. Lee elected to punt and Baker dropped one at the one-yard-line with 4:49 left to play.

McElroy was able to elude the KP blitz and hit Watson for a crucial 29-yard completion and then added a 17-yard pass to the KP 40. Watson jumped on a fumble for a four-yard loss and then Tyler Barrett/u> sacked McElroy for a 10-yard loss that forced third and 24. The Warriors did their job and stopped the North Andover offense as it did all night, but it just wasn’t enough time for the offense to get on the board.

It says everything about this team that when KP got the ball back, there were plenty of people thinking that somehow the Warriors would be able to pull this out.

“A lot of things looked like they were going our way early and then we just stalled out on ‘O’ a couple times,” Lee said. “We were just a little short on a couple things tonight. Just a lot of little miscues on offense really prevented us from stealing this one.”

Franklin Offense Stalls In State Semifinal Loss

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Franklin celebrates a goal by Annie Walsh (1) that cut the North Andover lead to one in the second half. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WELLESLEY, Mass. – The Franklin defense was able to keep the Panthers in Monday evening’s Div. 1 state semifinal at Babson College’s MacDowell Field, holding North Andover to just eight goals (two of them empty net goals in the final minutes), but the offense faltered against the Scarlet Knights’ zone look.

“Not many teams play it,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe of the North Andover scheme. “We’re used to man-to-man and we’re successful against it. We knew that they played a backer, so I told them it’s nothing we haven’t seen but it was the unforced errors – throwing it into their sticks or their goalie intercepting.”

The Panthers were limited to just two goals in each half, their lowest scoring output of the season, and saw their season come to a close with an 8-4 loss.

“Our ‘D’ has carried our game all season and I think they did it again tonight,” said North Andover coach Meredith Prior. “Two goals per half, that’s pretty low in lacrosse and I think Lauren Hiller came up huge and that’s why she’s the best goalie in the state.”

In the first half, senior Dani Lonati was a match for Hiller, a University of Massachusetts commit, with eight of her 10 saves. After Julia Jette opened the scoring 29 seconds into the game off an assist by Kendall Reardon, Lonati stopped four shots, including two free positions, on the first North Andover possession.

She continued to dominate the Knights as the half wore on and Diana Griffin doubled Franklin’s lead with 15:02 before the break on an assist by Caroline Lounsbury. Unfortunately for Franklin that would be the last goal that it would score for the next 27 minutes of game time.

“Six goals against…I thought our defense was amazing,” said Igoe. “Especially in that first half, Dani Lonati was on fire and she really kept us in the game. I think our trouble was offensively just capitalizing and then unforced errors kind of hurt us in the end.”

North Andover scored twice before halftime to tie the game and then added two more in the opening eight minutes of the second half. Freshman Annie Walsh got one back for the Panthers when she bounced in a free position goal that cut the deficit to just one.

“With the backer you can’t really dodge, so you can’t just go because there’s someone on the ball and someone waiting to back up that person,” said Igoe. “So, you have to be patient and move the ball and I thought we did a much better job of that in the second half.”

Again, the Knights had the answer, scoring the next two goals before Emily Spath ended the run with a free position with 4:40 remaining. By that time, Igoe had already called Lonati off the field to get an extra defender on and the Knights would take advantage of the empty net to tack on two more goals.

“I’ve been in that place, exactly where Franklin was, the past two years where you’re going as hard as you can and it’s not a fun place to be and I’m glad we’re on the other side of it this season,” said Prior.

While disappointed in the loss, Igoe refused to let that be the final word on the Panthers and the season that they have had, which included the program’s second sectional title and another undefeated Hockomock League championship.

“I told them don’t let one game define you,” said Igoe. “At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t sure how it would go. In the first Needham game, someone asked how we were going to do and I said, I don’t know; we could get killed and then we tied them and from there this team won a sectional championship.

“They worked hard all season long and credit to the seniors for bringing us this far and I’m excited for the future.”

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.