Elizabeth Forward's win keeps Section 4-AAA playoff picture clouded
South Park pretty much has run away with Section 4-AAA, but no one else has taken control of either of the other two remaining WPIAL playoff spots.
West Mifflin was the latest team to have an opportunity to put some distance between itself and the teams nestled under it in the standings, but Elizabeth Forward made a bigger mess out of the postseason situation.
Sophomore Justin Bakewell lined a two-run double to left with one out in the bottom of the sixth to break a tie and lift Elizabeth Forward (11-4, 5-3) to a 6-2 victory over West Mifflin (9-6, 5-4) at Wylie Field. With the win, the Warriors moved into a second-place tie with idle Thomas Jefferson (9-6, 5-3) and dropped the Titans a half-game out of the final postseason slot.
“He's playing really well for us, and he's only a sophomore, but he's really stepped up for us,” Elizabeth Forward coach Frank Champ said. “He's hitting the ball really well, but it wasn't just him.”
Bakewell's big hit off West Mifflin reliever Zak Fodor — a dying line drive that sunk just below the outstretched glove of diving left fielder Tim Hinkle — wasn't the only one in the inning. One out later, Luke Padezan doubled to left to score Bakewell, and Ryan Wardropper crushed a triple to the center-field fence to close the scoring.
“You can't give good teams baserunners, unearned runs and errors. You can't do it because you won't win many ballgames,” West Mifflin coach Jeff Kuzma said. “That being said, we simply, flat-out, got beat by a better team in this game. We weren't horrible by any stretch or means, but we just got beat by a better team.”
It was an especially tough loss to swallow considering that, down 2-1 heading into the top of the sixth, West Mifflin scratched out a run to tie the game. Jim Carassanessi looped a two-out single just over second base to score Fodor.
“Baseball is a funny game, and you can't be too high or too low because, as soon as you feel like you're too high, someone will be there to knock you down,” Kuzma said. “We did what we had to do to tie up the game with a clutch hit there, but a good team will answer, and they answered the bell when they had to.”
After three scoreless innings, West Mifflin broke on top against Elizabeth Forward starter Mark Adams in the top of the fourth when A.J. Olasz led off with a homer over the right-center field fence. Elizabeth Forward responded in the bottom of the inning as Matt Diehl doubled home Wardropper to tie the game then scored on a throwing error.
Despite the way this game went, nothing really has been decided as far as the muddled playoff picture. The two split their season series, and both teams have games remaining with South Park (16-0, 9-0) and Thomas Jefferson.
“South Park is pretty good and opened up a little bit of a lead on the rest, but I think everyone else, on any given day, anyone can beat anyone,” Champ said. “It's going to come down to pitching matchups and who's going to make plays and who is stepping up with some big hits.”