Friday, June 15, 2018

Franklin Goes Extra Mile to Edge Central Catholic and Advance to Super Eight Final

By Matt Feld (@Mattyfeld612)

Brockton, Mass. -- A little over 10 days ago, Franklin coach Zach Brown sat in the corner of an MIAA conference room sweating it out as his team became the last one chosen to play in the Super Eight tournament. Fast forward to late Thursday night, and Brown was hugging his assistant coaches as the Panthers solidified a spot in the Super Eight final.

With Franklin leading by a run, and the game-tying and winning runs on base, Panthers' reliever Bryan Woelfel reared back and threw a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner for strike three to give No. 7 Franklin a 6-5 win over No. 4 Central Catholic at Campanelli Stadium.

Central Catholic will now play BC High on Saturday at 1 p.m. for the right to take on Franklin in the championship.

“Bryan (Woelfel) is just a tremendous competitor,” said Brown. “He’s just a fiery, fiery kid and when he has the ball in his hand we’re really comfortable.”

In all, the Panthers pounded out 15 hits, highlighted by catcher Jake Macchi who went 4-for-5 at the plate.

Franklin (20-5) trailed 4-3 entering the top of the ninth, but Colby Fitzgibbons reached on an error to begin the inning. Raiders’ reliever Aiden Abernathy came back to get consecutive outs, but Macchi lined a single to left to put two on with two out.

That set the stage for Cooper Ross who laced an RBI single to left to tie the game at four.

“Our guys just keep grinding and keep believing, they’re very resilient,” said Brown. “I am never worried about their compete level and what they’re going to bring to the table.”

Woelfel, who came on in relief for Franklin ace Jake Noviello (6 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 5 Ks), retired the first two hitters he faced in the ninth but Central catcher Dominic Keegan laced a two out triple off the top of the left center field wall to put the winning run ninety feet away.

Two batters later, Woelfel induced a groundball to shortstop that was picked out of the dirt at first base by Steve Lutazzi to send the game to extra innings.

Franklin grabbed the lead in the top of the tenth without the benefit of a hit. An error, walk, and hit batter loaded the bases and with one out. Fitzgibbons then hit a slow chopper to third that was misplayed bringing home Jack Nally with the go-ahead run. Moments later, Scott Elliot connected on a sacrifice fly to center to make it 6-4 Franklin.

In its home half of the tenth, Central Catholic refused to go quietly. After Woelfel retired the first two hitters in the inning, Sean Thompson walked and Patrick Casserly was hit by a pitch. Joe Sanchez followed with a ground ball RBI base hit through the right side that scored Thompson to pull the Raiders within 6-5.

With Keegan now standing in the on-deck circle, Woelfel fired a full count fastball on the outside corner to freeze Jack Delaney and send Franklin to the Super Eight Final.

“I am pretty used to that situation and I love having that pressure on my hands,” said Woelfel. “We said we’d be here, but we didn’t know we actually would be. It’s unbelievable.”

Franklin pounced on Central Catholic starter Nate Carpenter (6 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks) for three runs in the top of the second. After three hits loaded the bases with nobody out, Evan Wendell grounded a two run single up the middle before Fitzgibbons lofted a sacrifice fly to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead.

Trailing by three in the bottom of the third, Central scored four times with two outs to jump in front.

Steve Hajjar got the Raiders on the board with an RBI double down the left field and Michael Borrelli followed with an RBI base hit to pull Central within 3-2. After a walk put two on with two out, Noah Lucier and Thompson connected on consecutive RBI singles to give the Raiders a 4-3 lead.

Both Carpenter and Noviello settled in after their rocky early frames. 

Despite giving up 13 hits, Carpenter kept the Panthers off the scoreboard for the remainder of his outing before turning the ball over to Abernathy (3.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks). 

Noviello, meanwhile, stranded runners in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings to allow Franklin to transition over to Woelfel with the game still in reach.

“Jake was outstanding,” said Brown. “He had that one inning, all with two outs where he just did not leverage the baseball down enough. Central Catholic is a really good team, they’re here for a reason and Jake gave us a chance.”

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