Elizabeth Forward baseball team playing well early
Just like every other high school baseball coach, Elizabeth Forward coach Frank Champ keeps a keen eye on the weather forecast this time of year.
So you can imagine Champ's reaction when 3 to 6 inches of snow was predicted earlier in the week followed be a spell of unseasonably cold temperatures.
“It was great, best news I've heard in a while,” Champ said.
Sure does sound like a guy whose team was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., set to play two scrimmages and four exhibition games over a six-day span.
“If there ever was a year to emphasize how important this trip is for us, this would be the year,” Champ said. “While everybody else is in the gym, we were able to get on the field for two scrimmages and four games.”
Better yet, the Warriors won all four of their exhibition games, including a 3-1 victory over perennial WPIAL power Shady Side Academy as they headed back north Wednesday evening.
Still, Champ cautioned to not read too much into their southern record.
“On paper, we are 4-0, but two of the teams we played were young, and you could tell were inexperienced,” Champ said. “What is just as important on this trip is how the kids come together. You can't discount that.”
Elizabeth Forward is coming off a surprising 8-6 season a year ago that left them two games short from qualifying for the playoffs.
It was a surprise because every starter from the Warriors' 23-1 WPIAL championship team from the year before was gone.
“We had no experience at all across the board last year and still we had a pretty good season, all things considered,” Champ said. “Just to come in every year and re-load is the ideal thing for the program. But we will see. We have the ability to do that.”
Last year's inexperience is this year's experience, especially on the mound.
Elizabeth Forward returns its entire pitching staff of Mark Adams, Ryan Wardropper and Luke Padezan.
Adams stuck out 52 last year, including 13 in a win over Uniontown; Padezan led the team with four wins, and Wardropper is the Warriors' most experienced pitcher.
“They got some experience last year and pitched pretty well in Florida, so we are going to expect a lot from them,” Champ said. “All three pitched for us last year, so they will be little more experienced and a little more aware on the mound.”
EF also returns all-section infielder Jake Terrick, along with seniors Ryan Thornton and Matt Diehl, giving Champ a group of seasoned players.
“We are not going to make the bonehead plays because of inexperience,” Champ said. “We may not be inexperienced, but we are still young. We are going to have to do everything well. I think we can play with anybody if we do all those things well. That's what it is going to come down to.”
Champ liked what he saw with his team's fielding in Florida.
“We played fairly well defensively,” Champ said. “We really didn't have that many errors, and hopefully, we bring that north with us.”
After a two-year hiatus from its natural rivals, Elizabeth Forward returns to a loaded Section 4-AAA with the likes of South Park, West Mifflin, Thomas Jefferson, Belle Vernon, Ringgold and Carrick.
“We were driving by some of these schools to go to other schools,” Champ said. “These are the teams that we should be playing. They are close to home, and there is a rivalry there with most of the teams in our section. It is not going to be easy, but it is where we belong.”