By Jim Hunter
The Saegertown Swat Club can hurt an opponent in a hurry.
Just ask Franklin.
Jump-started by back-to-back home runs from Mitchell Wood and Austin Scere, the two-time defending District 10 Class AA champion Panthers broke a scoreless game with four runs in the fourth inning for a 6-0 six-inning victory over the Knights on Tuesday night at Ainsworth Field.
The first-round playoff game was called after the sixth inning due to a severe thunderstorm.
Saegertown (18-2) will play Wilmington — which upset Titusville 8-5 last night — in a semifinal matchup on Friday at a site and time to be determined.
A second go-around for the Panthers was the winning formula against Franklin.
After managing only a single from Stephen Sada in the first inning and a double from Luke Carter in the second, the Saegertown Swat Club unloaded in the fourth.
Jumping on a 3-2 offering from Franklin pitcher Nick Emerson, Wood electrified the SHS dugout with a home run over the miniature Fenway Park right-field fence.
Two pitches later, the Panthers led 2-0 as Scere cleared the 317-foot, left-field fence with a solo blast ... as mentioned, the SSC can strike within seconds.
“Mitchell and Austin sure put a jolt in our dugout with those two blasts,” said Saegertown coach Tim Crum. “They have been tearing the cover off the ball as of late.”
The rolling Panthers weren’t done in the fourth. With two outs, Drew Durasa lined a single to center field and Matt Thompson reached on an error.
Going with the pitch, Kyle Wise followed with a two-run double down the right-field line.
The key to Saegertown’s breakout inning?
“Their (Franklin) starting pitcher didn’t have much of a breaking ball, so I told our players to sit on the fastball ... and we did,” said Crum. “If a pitcher is only one dimensional against us, he will be in trouble.”
The Wood-and-Scere duo did more damage in the fifth — drilling consecutive doubles. And Carter came through with a two-out, run-scoring single to increase the Panthers’ lead to 6-0.
The Franklin “0” line score means one thing: Carter threw another postseason masterpiece. A key pitching cog in the Panthers’ previous two D-10 championships, the right-handed Carter continued his playoff dominance with a six-hit shutout.
Carter was especially tough when Franklin had runners on base.
With runners on first and second with one out in the first inning, the Panthers’ ace bared down and fanned the next two Knights.
The Knights threatened again in the third inning as Clayton Maxon and Nate Cardy lined consecutive two-out singles, but Carter got downright nasty by striking out the next Knights’ batter on three pitches.
“Luke is a big-game pitcher ... that is the bottom line,” said Crum. “He was so efficient. He got stronger as the game went on.”
Game notes: Wood, Scere and Carter were two-for-three ... On the mound, Carter struck out four and walked none. The razor-sharp hurler only threw 70 pitches, 52 for strikes ... Saegertown catcher Tyler Walters made the defensive play of the game with a diving catch in foul territory in the sixth inning.