By Carey Phillips
Franklin outslugged Smoky Mountain 15-7 Friday in a Mountain Seven Conference baseball game at Western Carolina’s Childress Field/Hennon Stadium.
Ian Knepp had four hits in six at-bats for the Panthers. Malachi Hayes and Dawson Plouffe both added three hits, and Ashton White and Miles McClure finished with two each.
Plouffe started on the mound and pitched into the fifth inning for the win.
“It was one of those situations where right off the bat we made a few mistakes and got behind early,” Coach Jeremy Ellenburg said. “We had to try to play catch up the whole game, and that’s hard to do. I think we felt the pressure of that, especially the way things have been going for us.”
Franklin jumped to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first. Bradley Stiles had a two-run single, and Hayes and Plouffe had RBI singles. White drove in a run with a fielder’s choice.
Brylen Conlin singled for the Mustangs (3-13, 2-8) in the bottom of the first. He advanced on an error and scored on Zeb Fisher’s single for a 5-1 deficit.
The Panthers scored on an error in the third to lead 6-1.
They added four runs in the fourth to go up 10-1. Hayes had a two-run single, and Davis Anders singled in a run. Tyler Williams picked up an RBI with a fielder’s choice.
SM loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth on a walk to Weston Winchester and singles by Lincoln Sutton and Dev Hari. Conlin walked to force in a run leaving the gap 10-2.
Franklin had a chance to win the game in five innings on the 10-run rule after Knepp’s RBI single and an error made it 12-2.
The Mustangs stayed alive when they scored in the bottom of the fifth to trail 12-3. Parker Wilson drove in the run with an infield out.
The Panthers built the lead to 15-3 in the seventh. The runs came on Plouffe’s double, a wild pitch and Williams’ infield out.
SM countered with four runs in the bottom of the seventh. Cale Justice walked, Max Buchanan doubled and Wilson had a two-run single. After a walk to Winchester and Sutton’s single, Hari drove in a run with a fielder’s choice, and Conlin had an RBI single.
“The last inning was probably some of the most gritty at-bats I’ve seen all season,” Ellenburg said. “We went up there loose and ready to hit.”
Conlin and Sutton both had two hits for the Mustangs.
Clayton Dillard (1-6) started and took the loss.