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Elizabeth Forward baseball closes in on playoff berth

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014,

A week ago, it appeared to be an impossibility.

Now it seems like a sure thing.

Elizabeth Forward baseball coach Frank Champ didn't buy it then and isn't about to fall into that trap awaiting him Thursday.

After winning three games in four days against some of the toughest competition Section 4-AAA had to offer to keep their once-faint playoff hopes alive, the Warriors appear to be on the path to the postseason after Tuesday's 5-2 win over South Park in a game that completed from last week.

A win Thursday over the section's only winless team, Ringgold (3-10, 0-10), a team EF mercy ruled a month ago, would elevate the Warriors (10-7, 6-5) to the postseason for the second consecutive year.

After what EF went through to get to this point, Champ is sure of one thing: his team isn't going to look past Ringgold.

“I don't think it is a trap game because we have been saying all along that we needed to win all four of these games,” Champ said. “If we would've lost this game, there would've been no one worried about Thursday.”

Champ pointed to EF's first meeting with South Park (9-8, 7-5) as a perfect example. The Eagles won 16-6.

“Sure we beat Ringgold, 15-0, but that can be turned right around on us,” Champ said. “I am not going to lie. It's been a little stressful. I am glad that we have now put ourselves in the situation where we win and we can get in.”

The Warriors did that with a spectacular week with wins over Thomas Jefferson, Belle Vernon and South Park by a total of seven runs.

“We've played a lot of close games, and we needed them all,” Champ said.”

Tuesday's game was no different. Actually there wasn't much variation from EF's previous two wins: good pitching and timely hitting.

Luke Padezan pitched three solid innings to pick up the win before giving way in the seventh to Ryan Wardropper, who closed out the game by inducing a 1-6-3 double play.

The Warriors got timely run-scoring back-to-back hits from Jake Terrick and Padezan in the fourth to plate four of EF's five runs and give them a 5-1 lead.

“We got the timely hits, that's for sure,” Champ said. “We have had that kind of offensive production lately.”

Four of EF's seven hits came in the fourth inning off of losing pitcher Brian Yoest.

“They seemed like they had a little more pep in their game,” South Park coach Steve Bucci said. “It wasn't so much what we did today as it was what they did today, and they were the better team today.”

It didn't hurt that South Park clinched a playoff spot earlier in the day, when the Eagles beat Ringgold in a game that was suspended Monday before traveling to Elizabeth Forward for what turned into a meaningless game.

“Maybe some of the life was out of us. Who knows?” Bucci said. “But it was still an important game for the integrity of our section. We wanted to come out and play well, and we really did except for that one inning. We felt that being up 6-0 on Ringgold is the game that we had to put the hammer down.”

Seven players got hits for Elizabeth Forward, while six players for South Park got hits, including doubles by Brad Collas and Josh Wagner.

“We needed this game, but we need Thursday's game, too,” Champ said. “We aren't going to look past anybody.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib

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