Franklin — With each victory, Jim Hughes continues to distance himself from the rest of the baseball coaches in the state.
Two more, and it will be the Franklin coach’s 800th of his career after the Sabers defeated Greendale, 7-2, Saturday.
“He is the most organized coach I’ve been around,” said Greendale coach Brian Johnsen, who played for Hughes at Franklin from 1997-’99. “The most organized, disciplined coach I’ve been around. And just an absolute program builder. He’s just set that foundation and that carries over year after year.”
In his 41st season, the 27th at Franklin, Hughes owns a 798-406 record. Those chasing him aren’t even close.
Jack Friess, in his 35th year at Cedarburg, began the season second in the state with 496 victories. Among spring coaches, Hortonville’s Don Williams had 542 wins at the start of his 34th season.
“To be honest with you, I haven’t done a whole lot of thinking about it,” Hughes said. “I guess the only thing I can say is I know I’ve been around a long time. I’m happy to be able to have players that can do that for me and win a lot of games. That’s a good feeling.”
The Sabers’ quest for 800 continues against Milwaukee Marquette on Tuesday and South Milwaukee on Thursday.
Third-year starter Tyler Gentz drove in four runs, including a three-run home run, to give Franklin a 2-1 record. Greendale, which beat West Bend East earlier in the day, is 2-2.
“He’s obviously one of the best coaches in the state and I’m just happy to play for him,” Gentz said.
Franklin broke a 2-2 tie by scoring five times in the bottom of the sixth inning. With one out, East Carolina recruit Evan Kruczynski was hit by a pitch which led Johnsen to replace starting pitcher Chris Carloni with Brady Kais.
Kais’ errant pickoff attempt at first allowed Kruczynski to take second, and he scored on a double to left-center field by Ryan Ninko.
It was the first plate appearance of the game and second this season for Ninko, who came on to pitch in the fifth.
“It was good to come through in the clutch and hit a nice gapper,” Ninko said.
After a two-out infield single by Nick Pescheck gave Franklin a 4-2 lead, Gentz smacked his three-run blast to left center for the five-run margin.
“I thought he turned on the pitch really nice,” Hughes said. “He really got out on it.”
Gentz was 0 for 7 before hitting an infield single in the third and grounding out in the fifth.
“It felt great,” Gentz said of his home run. “It’s a good confidence booster and hopefully it’ll get our team rolling in the right direction.”
“I don’t think we’re firing yet on all cylinders,” the coach said. “But most people can say that at this stage. We’d like to be doing a little better than we are.”