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.

Panthers Prevail In Battle Against Black Knights

Franklin baseball Will Pacheco
Franklin’s Will Pacheco earned the save, getting the final three outs while stranding the tying run at first. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
STOUGHTON, Mass. – Stoughton’s offense came knocking multiple times throughout the game, but in the biggest situations, Franklin’s defense slammed the door shut.

The Black Knights loaded the bases in three separate innings and threatened with the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but three separate Panther pitchers came through to limit the damage, helping the Panthers secure a 5-3 win on the road.

After two quick strikeouts to start the game from Stoughton starter Zak Paquette, the Panthers cashed in. Senior Alex Haba had an infield single and quickly moved into scoring position by stealing second. Haba came in to score on a two-out RBI from senior Jake Macchi to put the visitors up 1-0 after a half inning.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Stoughton loaded the bases in the bottom of the first following a walk to junior George Currier, a single from senior Robbie Seaman, and a catcher’s interference but starting pitcher Liam Dailey induced a ground ball for the third out to keep the Knights off the board.

Franklin capitalized on its chances again in the top of the third. Scott Elliott led off with a single and took second when the hit got by the center fielder trying to make a defensive play. Elliott then stole third and came home when the throw from home was high, giving the Panthers a run without a second player putting the ball in play.

The Panthers struck again with two outs to increase the advantage. Cooper Ross reached on an error, took second on a single from JB Floris, and game in to score on an RBI base hit from Dan Markowski to make it 3-0.

“Two-out RBIs are key, they are clutch,” said Franklin head coach Zach Brown. “This is a good offense, and we’ve found ways to score runs in a number of ways. Today it just happened to be the two-out RBI and not quitting on an inning that made the difference.”

The Black Knights had the leadoff man erased with a double play in the second, and then couldn’t push across any runs when they loaded the bases with one out in the third inning. Currier and Seaman had back-to-back singles and junior James Genest reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with the Black Knights trailing 3-0.

Again, Dailey was up to the challenge, getting a strikeout for the second out and inducing a pop up behind the plate that was caught on a nice play by Macchi to keep Stoughton off the board.

“With some of the plays we made, we didn’t make it easy for Liam,” Brown said. “He gave us a great effort, we’re proud of that effort. When he’s on the hill, we feel pretty good about our chances.”

Franklin increased its lead with another big play from Elliott. Junior Jack Nally drew a one-out walk and advanced to second and third on back-to-back wild pitches.Elliot laced a shot to right center field that went past the fielder. With no fence at the Stoughton field, the ball continued rolling allowing Elliott to round the bases for an inside the park home run.

Stoughton once again put pressure on the Panthers in the bottom of the fifth, this time pushing some runs across with the bases load. Cian Swierzewski led off with a single, Seaman was hit by a pitch, and Genest single to load the bases with one out.

Jacob Kaplan came through with an RBI single to get the Knights on the board, and Michael Nazzaro followed with a base hit of his own to bring another run in, making it 5-2. With the bases still loaded, Brown elected to go to the bullpen and brought in junior Cody Trotin.

Trotin came through for Franklin, getting the first batter he faced to strikeout and followed by inducing a fly ball to center to prevent Stoughton from adding to its total.

“We’re young and Franklin is a good team,” said Stoughton head coach Mike Armour. “We didn’t do ourselves any favors today. Zak was locked in to start, you saw it with the two strikeouts, and I felt like we could have done him a little better, we could have made some more plays early on. But at the same time, you have to tip your cap to Franklin. They got the bat on the ball and got a few runs across the dish early that ended up being the difference. But we’re still learning, there’s still room for improvement, but all in all, being a hit away from tying this game we’ll take it.

“We had 11 left on base, but you have to tip your hat to Franklin for making some pitches and getting us out. We’re young, we have some guys that are still getting their feet wet at the varsity level and I think they showed today. Hopefully, we learn from it.”

Genest took over on the mound in relief for the Black Knights, and after the first batter he faced reached on an error, he retired six straight Panthers.

Stoughton brought the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but again the Panthers got the necessary outs. Seaman led off with a triple and scored on an RBI single from Genest to make it 5-3. Genest moved to second when Kaplan was walked, putting runners on first and second with no outs, forcing Brown to go to his bullpen again.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Junior Will Pacheco got a strikeout and then a fielder’s choice, putting runners on the corners for the Knights with two outs. Pacheco then got a soft line drive back to the mound for the third out, stranding the tying run on first to get the win.

“We got some outs when we needed them,” Brown said. “Cody Trotin came into a big spot in his first outing of the year. He really gave us what we needed at the time. And obviously, Will Pacheco has been around the block and he just seems to rise to the occasion in pressure situations.”

Franklin baseball (5-0 Hockomock, 6-0 overall) is back in action on Friday when it hosts one of the top teams in the state in Walpole. Stoughton (3-2, 5-2) is back in action on Tuesday when it travels to Foxboro.

Noviello and Woelfel Pair Up to Fire Franklin to Title

Franklin baseball
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

Franklin baseball
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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.”

Panthers Roar Past Prep and Into Super 8 Semifinal

Franklin baseball
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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Mansfield, Franklin Selected To Super 8 Tournament

Super 8
Mansfield’s Tyler Dalton (left) and Franklin’s Jason Ulrickson will be key pitchers for their respective teams. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The Hockomock League is invading the Super 8 tournament.

For the first time in its five year existence, the Super 8 will include a Hockomock team; two teams, in fact, as both Mansfield and Franklin were selected by the tournament committee at the MIAA offices on Sunday evening.

Mansfield was the fourth team nominated in the first round and Franklin was put up for discussion three teams later. Both received a 5-2 vote from committee members, which put them into the second round for reconsideration.

BC High and St. John’s Prep were the only two teams of the 14 nominated that received unanimous 7-0 votes in the first round to get automatic bids. Franklin and Mansfield were joined by Central Catholic, Wachusett, Walpole, Austin Prep, St. John’s Shrewsbury, Catholic Memorial and Lexington up for consideration in the second round.

In the second round, the vote goes one-by-one to each committee member and the first school to get four votes is in. Wachusett and Central Catholic were the first two teams to get the required votes, putting them into the Super 8 field.

Mansfield, which got three votes in the round that Central Catholic was put in, picked up four straight votes in the third go around to secure it’s spot in the Super 8, resulting in a big sigh of relief from head coach Joe Breen.

“I was less nervous proposing to my fiancé,” Breen said. “We’re excited for our boys, they’ve worked really hard and this has been a goal of their’s, not just this year but for the last couple of years. We’re happy to get an opportunity to compete against the best and that’s what we’ll have the chance to do with the teams that are in with us.

“The kids we’ve coached over the last couple of years are just as much apart of this. We’re just happy for everyone in the program.”

Walpole and Lexington each picked up four votes to bring the Super 8 field to seven. With just one spot left, Franklin received the first two votes only for St. John’s Shrewsbury to get the next two. But the Panthers picked up the next two votes to earn the final spot in the tournament.

“I’m just excited to get back over the field tonight, our guys are waiting to scrimmage so it’s going to be a great moment to go share with them,” said Franklin head coach Zach Brown. “They’ve worked really hard. They wanted to be the first Franklin team to make the Super 8, it was definitely a goal that they set out for. We tried to make sure scheduling wise we gave them an opportunity to make that a reality.”

While Mansfield will hold the bragging rights for being the first Hockomock team in the Super 8, albeit by three minutes, Breen was equally excited when the Panthers secured the final spot.

“I’m jacked up for Coach Brown and the Franklin boys,” Breen said. “Obviously they are our biggest competitors during the season but I respect the heck out of their team, players, and staff. I was really excited they got in, they certainly deserved it.”

Brown was quick to reciprocate the respect.

“We’re really excited for Mansfield,” Brown said. “Joe’s done such a great job at Mansfield and I have so much respect for their program and everything that they’ve done for the Hock.”

After the teams were selected for the Super 8, the committee voted on the seeding. Mansfield earned the #5 seed and will play at #4 Central Catholic. Franklin was seeded at #7 and will travel to play #2 Wachusett. Both games are scheduled for Wednesday at 4:00 PM.

“They have a lefty, and he’s nasty,” Breen said of CC. “But we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do against [Central Catholic].”

“I know they are extremely talented and it’s going to take a great effort on our part to go to their place and get a ‘W.’” Brown said of Wachusett. “We have a lot of respect for them and what they’ve accomplished so we’ll go and do our best.”

The Super 8 tournament is double-elimination. Mansfield and Franklin will play their second game either Friday or Saturday at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton.

Franklin Prevails In Extras Against North Attleboro

Franklin baseball
Franklin’s Jack Nally (10) is greeted by teammates following his home run in the second inning. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – With two of the best pitchers in the entire state on the mound, scoring chances for North Attleboro and Franklin were going to be hard to come by on Monday afternoon.

Franklin’s Jake Noviello and North’s Nick Sinacola, both committed to play at Division 1 schools next year, clashed in what was the true definition of a pitcher’s duel.

Noviello allowed one earned run on five hits and one walk, striking out 11 in eight innings of work while Sinacola struck out 12, allowed four, four walks and one earned run in 7.1 innings.

It wasn’t until the top of the ninth when the Panthers finally cashed in, exploding for five runs in the top half of the inning to prevail with a 6-1 win over the Rocketeers.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“We knew we’d face Sinacola and he’s a great pitcher, and we knew it’d be a great game,” said Franklin head coach Zach Brown. “So we talked about competition, and I think sometimes people forget that competition is back and forth — they answer, then you answer, back and forth. So that was the message prior to the game. We knew there’d be a lot of swings, we just had to stay the course and trust each other. North Attleboro is a great baseball team, they made it really difficult for us today, so hats off to them.

“I thought Jake did a great job just setting the tone. Each time we needed him to settle us back down, he was able to do that.”

North Attleboro’s Zach DeMattio connected on a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the first inning to put Big Red ahead 1-0.

But Franklin sophomore Jack Nally answered in the top half of the second, ripping a line drive solo shot down into the bleachers in left field to make it 1-1.

“[Nick] pitched his tail off, there’s not much more to say,” said North Attleboro coach Mike Hart. “He did everything we asked him to. The kids have been behind him all year. He’s a great leader for us too. We knew scoring chances would be tough to come by for both teams. You have to take them when you have the opportunity.”

Those would be the only runs that the starting pitchers gave up, though each team had a golden chance to take the lead late in the game.

North had its best chance in the bottom of the seventh when Nick Raneri reached on a one-out single, and pinch runner Nolan Buckley went all the way to third after an errant pickoff attempt. The Rocketeers tried for a suicide squeeze to bring the winning run in, but Franklin’s defense was prepared.

Noviello purposely pitched high and junior catcher Jake Macchi fired down the third base line. Shortstop Alex Haba made a nice play to get back to the bag, took the throw, and then ran down the runner for the second out. Noviello struck out the next batter to end the inning.

“We had talked about it and how we wanted to defend it,” Brown said. “We decided that if they were going to do it, it’d be the first pitch so we went pitch out there and we were fortunate enough to get it done. And our shortstop did a great job coming over the top of that play, because that’s not an easy play. The guys did a great job executing it.”

“We’ve been aggressive all season, I’m not going to make any excuses for doing it,” Hart said about the decision. “I thought it was the time to do it…that’s the way we play the game and that’s how we’re going to continue to do it.”

That momentum carried into the top of the eighth for the Panthers. Evan Wendell (walk) and Scott Elliott (single) reached and then advanced a base on a throwing error. After going up 3-0, Haba was intentionally walked to load the bases.

That put an end to Sinacola’s day but senior Ben Arrighi came in and got the job done. The senior made a nice play on a grounder near the first base line to get the force out at home and got a swinging strikeout for the third out to escape the inning without any damage.

“That’s his spot right there,” Hart said of Arrighi. “His innings are down because our starters have been able to go deep into games. I give him a lot of credit. He came in with some serious guts and got the job done for us in that inning.”

Noviello didn’t slow down in the bottom of the eighth, sandwiching a pair of strikeouts around a pop up to keep the momentum on the Panthers’ side.

Nally got things started in the top of the ninth with a leadoff single and then stole second. Shane O’Neil laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Nally over, and the sophomore scored on a base hit from senior Michael Langmeyer to make it 2-1.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Langmeyer stole second, took third on a groundout, and crossed the plate on an RBI single from Colby Fitzgibbons. Elliott followed with a walk to put runners on first and second and then Haba — who had a two-run home run taken away by a leaping grab from North’s Nathan Pearce in the sixth inning — delivered the knock out blow with a three-run bomb over the press box at Community Field to give Franklin a 6-1 lead.

“[Alex] has been real steady for us,” Brown said. “He really stepped up big and delivered in a big spot for us. We really needed those insurance runs to beat a team like that because North is capable of scoring in bunches.”

Franklin senior Bryan Woelfel needed just 10 pitches to set North down in order in the ninth inning to close the door.

Franklin baseball finishes the regular season 17-5 overall and 12-4 in the Hockomock. If King Philip defeats Mansfield on Thursday, the Panthers will share the Kelley-Rex title with the Hornets. Franklin will find out its postseason fate June 3rd (Super 8) or June 5th (D1 South). North Attleboro (16-2 overall, 12-2 Hock) is back in action on Wednesday against Milford.

Hornets Land Big Win Over Visiting Franklin

Mansfield baseball
Mansfield starter Tyler Dalton delivers a pitch in the top of the first inning against Franklin. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.


“Our approach as a team offensively has certainly improved since the last game,” Breen said. “We’ve seen in the last couple of games, with two strikes, our strikeout numbers are way down. Guys get two strikes on them and it’s now a battle to get them out. I think we had quite a few important two-strike hits today and I think that was the difference. If you foul off some of those pitches, you’re making [Noviello] throw more pitches, and we tried to drive that pitch count up early.

“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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Noviello’s Pitching, Offensive Explosion Lifts Franklin


By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter

FRANKLIN, Mass. – When Franklin and Oliver Ames met on April 11th, Fmacranklin needed some late game heroics to come out of Easton with an extra innings win. On Monday night in Franklin, the Panthers needed no such heroics, as they walked away with a convincing 10-1 win over the Tigers.

It didn’t look like things would be easy for Franklin in the top of the first, as OA’s Michael Friel led off the game with a triple, and then later came home to score on a wild pitch from Jake Noviello. After a strikeout, OA came through with three straight singles from Mitch Goulet, Chris Pearsons, and Matt Muir to load the bases with just one out.

Noviello came through though, striking out the next two OA batters to end the top half of the inning with limited damage.

In the bottom of the second, Cooper Ross and JB Floris (2-for-2, two runs) hit back-to-back singles, and then Steve Luttazi, in his first game back in the lineup following a pulled hamstring, singled home Ross to tie the game up at 1-1. Floris came home on a passed ball, and Jack Nally (3-for-3, two RBI, run) brought in Luttazi with a single to put Franklin up 3-1.

In the top of the fourth, OA’s CJ Deveau singled, but that was the last time a Tiger batter would reach base, as Noviello retired the last 11 batters he faced, including five via strikeout as he finished with nine punchouts in a complete-game effort.

“In the first inning, the ball was coming out of his hand great and he feels great, but location-wise, he’s throwing strikes, but he’s mid-thigh, so what I had said to him was ‘Hey, let’s get to the knees, and let’s get away from the eyes a little bit, and make sure you get out in front,’ and he’s just such a poised kid, a lot of kids can’t do that, and he’s able to make that quick adjustment, and honestly he got into a really good rhythm from there,” said Franklin coach Zach Brown about his ace. “He’s a special kid, he’s a special competitor, and we feel good when we have him on the hill.”

In the bottom of the fourth, Franklin’s offense came through again, as Floris drew a walk and then Luttazi doubled which set up Nally, who singled home Floris. A sacrifice bunt by Evan Wendell left Franklin with runners on second and third. A safety squeeze by Colby Fitzgibbons brought home Luttazi and extended the Franklin lead to 5-1.

In the bottom of the fifth, Franklin’s Alex Haba and Jake Macchi singled and Floris got hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out, but OA was able to turn a 1-2-3 double play to escape the inning.

Franklin broke things up with five runs in the bottom of the sixth as Nally singled and stole second before being singled home by Wendell. Wendell scored on a throwing error which allowed Colby Fitzgibbons to reach second, where he was hit home by Scott Elliott.

Macchi delivered with a ball out to center that missed leaving the park by mere feet, and he was able to leg out a triple and score Elliott. Ross singled home Macchi to give Franklin a 10-1 lead. Noviello shut the door in the top of the 7th and the Panthers were able to get the win.

Monday’s game marked Franklin’s third straight game in which they scored double digit runs, as they scored 14 runs and 11 runs in wins over Stoughton and Sharon, respectively, before their 10 run outing vs Oliver Ames. In Franklin’s last five games, they’ve totaled 53 runs.

“It’s been different guys which has been great, we’ve really had some good balance, good productivity from a lot of different guys,” Brown said on Franklin’s offensive output. “[Tonight] was a balanced approach, guys were trying to win each inning, and it worked out.”

Franklin (11-2) will travel to Taunton on Wednesday for a rematch with the Tigers. Taunton bested Franklin 2-0 in their first matchup on April 20th.

Oliver Ames (7-4) will head to King Philip on Wednesday. It will be the first meeting between the two this year.