Franklin comeback wins title
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Franklin Township's 15-year old Babe Ruth All-Star team celebrates its championship.
Franklin Township was three outs away from watching Blue Valley North get its hands on the District 4 15-year old Tournament Championship.
But, when the locals came in for their last at-bats, manager Ricky Strohl made it know they could still get a grasp on that tournament trophy if they put their 'hearts' into to it against a team, who handed them their lone loss.
So after playing from behind for four innings, the Franklin Township players answered their coaches' request with a four-run seventh-inning to grab a come-from-behind 6-5 championship victory.
"After the first game, we lost pretty bad to these guys," Strohl said. "So, we challenged them - we challenged their heart. The whole game we wanted them to stay in it. The seventh inning came and we challenged them once more to see how much heart they had. They showed it tonight with the way they came from behind."
It was hard enough losing to Blue Valley North by nine during pool play, so without a doubt Franklin Township wasn't going to let a district title, yet alone a trip to the State Tournament, slip out of its grasp.
"Our coaches simply pumped us up," said Anthony Rossino, on what sparked their "never give up attitude in the dug-out prior to the start of the top of the last inning. "And, our whole entire team got pumped up once we got those singles there in the seventh. Then, we just felt that we could do it."
After surrendering a lead to Blue Valley North in the third inning and then watching the tournament's No. 1 seed build it to a three-run lead in the fifth, Franklin Township proved that anything is possible.
PJ Salerno got the seventh inning comeback going by reaching first base on a throwing error. One out later, Nick Schaeffer moved Salerno into scoring position with a single up the middle. Jacob Hoats drew a walk from Blue Valley North relief pitcher Zack Werner to load the bases.
As any other lead-off hitter would want to do, Franklin Township's Anthony Rossino fulfilled his duties. With two strikes against him, Rossino laced a two-run single to right scoring Salerno and Schaffer to pull Franklin within one at 5-4.
James Farano followed with a fielder's choice RBI scoring Hoats to tie the game.
Dane Ciavarella then drilled a shot to center-field and for a second it looked as if Franklin Township would fall a run short of a title. but the Blue Valley North fielder dropped the ball. And, with a quick reaction, Rossino took off and had enough time to score before the ball got to home plate for the go-ahead run. In the process, Ciavarella stood tall at second base. But, Werner got Damien Richards to ground into another fielder's choice to prevent Franklin Township from getting any more insurance.
Having watched his offense turn the tables, Rossino had the chance to preserve himself a win on the mound now - as long as his supporting defensive cast and himself kept Blue Valley North from crossing home plate.
Rossino got Werner to pop out to Ciaverella at third, then got Tommy Milazzo to fly out to Schaeffer in center and then teammates AJ Wenrich and Farano provided the last out.
Blue Valley North's Johnny Furino reached on a Franklin Township error, but Wenrich and Farano made a short-lived stay on the base paths. Furino attempted to steal second and Wenrich gunned him down. Farano applied the tag to seal the championship.
"I knew if I just threw strikes my team defense would help me get the outs," Rossino said. "It was just awesome when Wenrich and Farano caught the guy stealing because I knew I didn't have to pitch anymore.
"And better yet, we got the win even from coming back from how much we were behind."
So, an opening 13-4 setback to Blue Valley North turned into a 6-5 thriller of a win and a trip to states starting next Wednesday at Middletown.
"Going into states, we're just looking to perform well and just keep the Franklin Township's name in good standing with everyone and just go out there and do our best," Strohl said.
"We came back and won four in a row to win the district. And, right now, we're just on cloud nine and we just can't wait to get to Middletown for states."
Franklin Twp. 020 000 4 - 6 3 2
Blue Vy. North 102 020 0 - 5 6 2
Wenriuch, Dailey (4), Thompson (5), Rossino (5) and Berger, Wenrich (4); Fardella, Rauh (4), Werner (7) and Milazzo. W - Rossino. L - Werner.