Franklin Twp. stays alive - again
Franklin Township's Collin Haupt throws the ball back into the infield during a recent District 18 Little League tournament game. Haupt and his teammates earned an 11-9 victory over Valley East Saturday in the loser's bracket finals. Franklin Township and Tamaqua, the two teams left in the tournament, will meet ths evening in Tamaqua. Bob Ford/TIMES NEWS
CONYNGHAM - Mother Nature delayed the Franklin Township All-Stars, but she couldn't stop them.
That's not a surprise, however, because over the last couple weeks nothing has been able to stop Franklin Township.
Saturday night, Franklin waited out a 40-minute thunderstorm delay and then went out and defeated Valley East, 11-9, in the loser's bracket final of the District 18 11-12 year old Little League Tournament.
It was Franklin Township's fifth straight elimination-defying victory and earned it the right to face undefeated Tamaqua tonight at 6 p.m. at Tamaqua
"What else can I say about this team," said Franklin Township manager Frank Bokan after watching his team avenge its only loss of the tourney. "We had one bad inning in this entire tournament and that was the first time we played Valley East.
"We made a number of errors and gave them something like six unearned runs in one inning. But from that point forward, our kids have been outstanding. They just refuse to lose."
Saturday's win didn't come without some obstacles. Franklin had to overcome the weather delay, some shaky fielding, and a pitch count forced pitching change with the game on the line in the final inning.
But it found a way.
"These kids are playing with a lot of confidence," said Bokan. "They believe in each other and believe they are going to win.
"Tonight might not have been our best game defensively, but it didn't matter. We just kept picking each other up. Everyone on the team found a way to contribute to this victory and that's what you need against a team as good as Valley East."
Bokan wasn't exaggerating as Franklin Township got huge contributions up and down the lineup. Eight different players had hits in the game, eight players scored runs, and five players knocked in runs.
Leading the balanced attack was Gabe Wagner. Wagner not only had three hits and three RBIs in the game, but he came through in Franklin's two most critical innings.
After Valley East took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, Wagner laced a two-run triple in the bottom of the frame to help Franklin build a 3-1 lead.
Valley East grabbed the lead back in the second inning, but Franklin erupted for four runs in its half of the inning to once again get the lead right back. Wagner, Jack Schaeffer and Daniel Keer all had RBIs in the uprising.
"Gabe (Wagner) had some big hits for us," said Bokan. "Both times they took a lead on us we answered right back and Gabe played a huge role in both those innings.
"It's really nice to answer when the other team scores. Not only does it switch the momentum back in your favor, but it can also be a bit demoralizing for the other team."
Franklin took an 11-7 lead into the sixth inning before Valley East made one last bid to pull out the win.
Valley got two of its first three batters on base to start the final inning and in doing so forced starting pitcher Frank Bokan III to hit the 85-pitch Little League limit.
In a game that saw numerous Franklin players step up and make plays when they had to, relief pitcher Dalton Berger became the evening's final hero.
Berger retired the first batter he faced, but back-to-back errors put the tying runs on base with two out. Berger wasn't rattled, however, as he got a soft ground out to end the game.
"For most pitchers, having to come into the situation Dalton (Berger) did would be a lot of pressure," said Bokan. "But it doesn't bother him at all.
"He's been our main relief pitcher in this tournament and he's done a really good job in pressure situations."
Besides Wagner's big game at the plate, Schaeffer, Bokan and Nolan Wentz all added two hits. Schaeffer scored three runs while Keer scored two runs and knocked in two.
Valley East 130 032 - 9 7 4
Franklin Twp. 340 22x - 11 13 6
Yannuzzi, Reese (3) and Welch; Bokan, Berger (6) and Wagner. W-Bokan. L-Yannuzzi. S-Berger.