5-4 win keeps EF in playoff race, knocks out BVA
In a must-win game for both schools, the Elizabeth Forward baseball team kept its playoff hopes alive and eliminated Belle Vernon Area's postseason hopes with a 5-4 Section 4-AAA road win.
“Still alive and fighting,” EF coach Frank Champ said. “We have two to win still, but we are only looking at South Park right now. This was a nice win, but we can't get too caught up in this or looking at Ringgold on Thursday. Just looking at South Park.”
The Warriors (9-7, 5-5) grabbed the lead with four runs in the third inning. The Leopards threatened several times, but were unable to get a big hit to tie the game. Putting runners on base was not a problem for BVA (10-6, 6-6), which loaded the bases three times. But BVA went just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 players on base.
“It's a microcosm of our entire season,” BVA coach Daryl Hixenbaugh said. “We have struggled in that department all year. You just cannot expect to win with at-bats in big situations like we had tonight.”
Of EF's eight hits, six went for extra bases, three by Ryan Wardropper, who went 3-for-4 with three doubles, driving in three runs.
“We had some clutch hits for sure tonight,” Champ said. “We also had some mistakes that almost cost us. Nine walks is too many. Some defensive miscues as well. But we got the hits that we needed when we needed them.”
BVA struck first, plating a run in the bottom of the first inning. The Leps loaded the bases on walks by EF starter Andrew Jacobs. Evan Hannon scored on a wild pitch, but Jacobs was able to induce a double-play grounder to get out of the jam before more damage could be done.
But in the third, the Warriors took the lead for good and chased BVA starter Cody Menges with four runs on three hits. Wardropper doubled home Wes Scott and Jake Terrick, before scoring on Steve Welsk's triple. Welsk scored when Justin Bakewell punched a single up through the middle of a drawn-in infield. After a walk, Dylan Stark entered the game to pitch and got the Leps out of the jam.
BVA added a run in the bottom of the third, when Parker Lynn doubled and scored on Cody Menges' single. But EF got the run right back in the top of the fourth, when Luke Padezan and Wardropper hit back-to-back doubles.
BVA pulled within one run with Lynn's two-out, two-run bloop single in the fourth, and the Leps loaded the bases again in the sixth, but Wardropper came on to close and shut down BVA over the last 1 2⁄3 innings.
“We've had our backs to the wall here for a couple games,” Champ said. “We got in big situations tonight and we didn't panic. Ryan (Wardropper) had a terrific game batting for us and closed the door when we needed him to. I'm proud of these kids.”
“This is a good ball club and a good group of kids,” Hixenbaugh said. “We've had a good year and it's a shame that we won't be going further than this. But we have three more games this season left to play out and then we have to look to next season.”
Prior to the game, BVA's Lynn, Menges, Stark, Dylan Pietrantoni, Niko Tasser, Jimmy Amoroso, Matt Bashioum, Clark Necciai, Tyler Richard and Adam Holliday were honored as part of senior night. The game's first pitch was pushed back nearly an hour due to lightning.
Donnie Tasser is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.