BROCKTON — Bryan Woelfel stood on the Campanelli Stadium mound and handed the ball to his best friend, Jake Noviello, in the most crucial moment of Monday’s Super 8 Final against Central Catholic.
“I handed him the ball and said, ‘Pick us up, and let’s go in and hit,’” Woelfel recalled.
Noviello relieved Woelfel in a dire situation in the bottom of the eighth with no outs and runners on second and third in a 2-2 game.
But the Fairfield commit managed to escape, striking out the side.
“There’s no other pitcher in the state who’s going to do that,” Woelfel said of Noviello.
In the top of the ninth, Evan Wendell perfectly executed a suicide squeeze, scoring first baseman Steve Luttazi from the third.
As rain poured down in the home half of the ninth, Noviello rose to the challenge again, fanning Noah Lucier with the winning run on first, to cap Franklin’s unprecedented run with a 3-2 victory.
The seventh-seeded Panthers became the lowest seed to capture a Super 8 title.
After winning each of its last three games by one run, Franklin’s triumph marked the fourth time a public school has won the Super 8 in its five years of exsistence, joining Newton North (2014) and Braintree, which won back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016.
“This is the best possible ending I could think of,” Noviello said. “For whatever reason, this team just never gave up. We’re fighters to the end, and I’m so proud of everyone.”
On Monday, Luttazi led off the ninth with a single.
He advanced to third on a throwing error from Vanderbilt-bound catcher Dom Keegan (2 for 3), prompting Franklin coach Zach Brown to call for the squeeze play when Wendell stepped up to the plate.
“They conferenced on the mound and Coach Brown said they probably think we’re about to squeeze here, so let’s take it off,” Wendell said. “He was right. They threw a dirt ball. Put it down the second one. Great coaching by him.”
Catcher Jake Macchi launched a two-run homer in the first but Central tied it with two runs in the fourth before the Panthers finally broke through against reliever Aidan Abernathy (5⅔ innings, 1 run).
Keegan nearly tied the game in the ninth, but his drive with home run distance trailed off foul. Noviello then retired Steve Hajjar, the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year.
“It was a let-it-out mentality,” Brown said. “We were going to be aggressive. There was a gut feeling and Noviello was the guy to give us a chance. He’s been clutch his whole career.”