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Photos by Travis TallentBaseball team rallies in time for playoffs before losing in the third round

The Franklin High School baseball team had a slow start to its season going 6-12 in games played from early February through most of April, but then something happened to the team, who up until that point, had hardly showed up on anybody's radar.

As their bats began to heat up, the Panthers managed to put up a win against North Henderson and another against East Henderson, then West Henderson and the wins kept coming. And on Tuesday, the Panthers entered the third round of the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs. The Panthers were looking to continue that momentum right on through with rival Smoky Mountain whom coincidentally gave Franklin their last loss on April 30, by one run and a score of 3- 2.Though the playoff showdown didn't end in Franklin's favor, it is unlikely that Smoky underestimated the Panthers as a result of their late season rally.

In fact, during their seven game winning streak and their playoff loss, the Panthers scored less than four runs on two separate occasions – a win against West Henderson and the loss that ended their season. In fact, every win but two came by four runs or more. So what changed?

“The biggest difference was mainly confidence,” said head coach Ryan Raby. “The kids were going out and expecting to win. As a coach you can try and pump as much confidence into kids as you can, and tell them how close they are to winning, but until they start succeeding and get that self confidence it will be a struggle.”

And the confidence was evident in the players going into the Smoky Mountain game. A strong winning streak will do that for a team, but in this case, it could have been the fact that they just made it to the playoffs in the first place. After all, Franklin's varsity baseball team hadn't seen the post season since 2005. Or it could have been, that not only did they make it but they won in the playoffs. Twice. Another feat that hasn't happened since 2001.

“It was a great feeling,” Raby said. “It was great to see all the hard work and long hours the kids have put in, pay off.”

Going into Tuesday's game that was hosted by Smoky Mountain, Franklin had avenged losses to five of the teams that had beat them earlier in the season when they had struggled to put the bat on the ball. They also had playoff wins against a tough Draughn High School team and Rutherfordton-Spindale Central, both dominant showings by Franklin.

“I think the team's mindset was in a good place. They were confident, but not cocky. They knew what it was like to lose, and they didn't want to go back there,” said Raby. “They were kind of playing with a chip on their shoulder. Any time you struggle, particularly early like we did, there is going to be plenty of negativity going around. I think most of them heard it, but didn't listen to it. They kind of used that to fuel them.”

The game that ended their season didn't come easy for the opposition. In the sixth inning, the game was tied at 2-2, but a questionable call regarding a bunt – in which the ball might have hit the bat twice and if so should have been called an out – by the Mustangs provided the momentum needed to move batters around the bags and take a lead of 4-2 which would end up being the final score of the game, thus ending the Panthers rejuvenated season.

The Mustangs will go on to play Bunker Hill in the fourth round of the playoffs.

Other sports results

FHS' women's soccer team started off the 2A state playoffs with a massive win against Crest, invoking the mercy rule for the first time of the season, but the trend wouldn't last in the second round when they took on Forbush High School. Franklin lost by a score of 6-1.

The FHS softball team met a similar fate in the second round when they played West Lincoln High School. The Lady Panthers season came to an end when they were beaten by a score of 11-4. The team finished their season, 8-12 overall.

The FHS golf team had a strong showing at the NCHSAA 2A West Regionals but none of the players were able to make it to the state championship.

  • Charles Martin: 84
  • Tyler Stoudemire: 88
  • Isaac Jay: 93
  • Blake Raymond: 91
  • Ben Hagan: 95
  • Cole Cook: 101


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