FRANKLIN, Mass. -- Entering the bottom half of the ninth inning with the game tied, 7-7, Franklin's Cam Flateau calmly squared up and took the third pitch from Oliver Ames reliever David MacKinnon square off his right shoulder.
“The first pitch was right at my head, and I was a little afraid of that one," Flateau said. "But I just knew that he wasn’t going to get a strike to me because I was on his plate, so I did the best I could, and got hit."
Franklin head coach Dave Niro swapped Flateau for Brad Padula, who managed to reach second base one batter later following a suicide squeeze by Joe Palazini.
Padula then finished his trip around the base path when Marc Mele, the third batter of the inning, connected on Mackinnon’s third pitch. That drove home the game-winning run for Franklin (3-1), completing a thrilling 8-7 comeback over the Tigers.
“The first pitch was kind of close, a little low, and I thought it might have been a strike," Mele said. "The second one, I tried to see it better, and the third one I just cocked back, and got ready.".
Said Niro, “We never quit. Baseball’s a great game, and that’s why we play it like this.”
OA (4-1) earned a 2-0 lead to start the game in the top half of the first inning when Matt Harding cleared the bases with an RBI triple, which sent Mike McMillan and Mackinnon to the dish.
Franklin’s starting pitcher Bobby Chaiton recovered by retiring five of the next six batters he faced, before the Panthers' offense recorded three runs on five hits in the bottom half of the second inning.
“Bobby did a great job for us. He’s been struggling a little bit at the beginning of the year, but he did a great job [after he settled down],” said Niro.
Hits from Chaiton, Palazini and Reed Turgeon provided the Panthers with a 3-2 lead. But OA erased that in the top of the sixth, first with a single from Brad Fleming then an RBI triple from Harding.
The Tigers added to their lead one inning later when Jim Sullivan, McMillan and Mackinnon touched all four bases to give OA a 7-3 advantage entering the bottom half of the seventh inning.
Bryan Abbott began Franklin’s final frame when he connected on a 2-2 pitch from OA’s starter, David Holmes, which jump-started a Panthers four-run rally that sent the game to extra innings.
“I missed a pitch earlier during my at bat that I thought I should have hammered in the gap, so I found myself down, 2-2 and I just got a pitch in the zone that I got around on it, and hit it to right field, a nice little single,” said Abbott.
Entering the top of the eighth, Mele retired three consecutive OA batters, before Franklin loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half of the inning. The Panther bats attempted to bring home the winning run on third, but Mackinnon managed force Tyler Buck and Chaiton to ground out, and then Turgeon to pop out to center field.
“I was trying to stay calm and throw strikes,” Mele said of his final two innings on the bump. “I didn’t want to let the first batter on because I never leave stranding good.”
Mele repeated his eighth inning performance in the ninth by retiring three more OA batters before he recorded the game-winning RBI that earned Franklin their third victory of the season.
“Marc [Mele] just did a heck of a job for a sophomore,” exclaimed Niro. “You can’t ask for anything better [because] he held them scoreless, and got the winning it.”
“It was a really good high school game that was played out on the field, and we just couldn’t put them away,” OA head coach Leo Duggan said. “I thought we did a nice job in the eighth when they had the bases loaded and nobody out. We didn’t come up with any hits in the ninth, and they [managed] to get it through, so give them credit.”