The senior members of the Beaver Area High School baseball team had been waiting a long time for this season.
"Basically since they were about 5 years old," Bobcats coach Bruce Herstine said. "They knew that they would play together in high school and believed they would have the right amount of talent when their senior year came around.
"They had been waiting for this opportunity."
After spending the past two years competing at the Class AAA level, the Bobcats -- with their experience-loaded roster -- dropped down to Class AA this season. Beaver went 12-2 in Section 5, sharing the section title with perennial power Riverside, and entered the WPIAL playoffs as the No. 2 seed in Class AA.
"We've had some high expectations this season because it's our senior year and because we dropped down from Class AAA," said senior pitcher Austin Ross, who lives in Brighton Township. "We played against good teams in Triple-A, but we knew we would be in a good spot to compete this season.
"We've been thrilled about the opportunity to compete for a championship."
Beaver (15-3) topped Bentworth in the first round of the playoffs, 6-5, before knocking off section-rival Laurel, 6-0, in the quarterfinals last week.
The Bobcats defeated Shady Side Academy, 8-1, in the semifinals Tuesday at Pullman Park in Butler. They advance to the championship game where they will meet undefeated Quaker Valley at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Consol Energy Field in North Franklin near Washington.
Although Herstine credits all nine of his seniors for the team's success this season, he believes the senior foursome of Ross, Ben Herstine, Nick Hineman and Austin Logan have been the Bobcats' driving force.
"The kids in the area know who these guys are," Bruce Herstine said. "The younger kids look up to all of them, know all about them and want to play on the same team as them.
"These are guys who lead by example. They've each taken a turn as a vocal leader at some point during the year and all have stepped up on the field when we've needed them."
Ross, a right-handed pitcher who is committed to play baseball at Division I Radford University in Virginia next year, went 4-1 as the staff's ace during the regular season.
"He's always been our No. 1 pitcher," Bruce Herstine said. "And he always comes through for us in a big way during big games. He's just a bulldog on the mound."
Logan, a shortstop/pitcher, batted .488 with 22 RBIs during the regular season. As the Bobcats' No. 2 pitcher, Logan improved his record to 6-1 with 63 strikeouts after tossing a two-hit, 17-strikeout performance against Laurel in the quarterfinals.
"We're playing well and hitting the ball well," said Logan, who lives in Beaver. "More importantly, we're playing for each other and have a desire to win.
"A lot of us have been playing together for a long time. We've all progressed well as players. It's been pretty cool that we've been able to have this season as seniors."
Ben Herstine, who is a son of the coach, paced Beaver's offense during the regular season by batting .529 with five home runs and 26 RBIs. He also was named the Class AA player of the year by the WPIAL Baseball Coaches Association.
"We lost some good players from last year's team, but we still had some big expectations this season," said Ben Herstine, who lives in Vanport. "This team is a great group of friends and we've been waiting our whole lives for this season."
Hineman finished the regular season batting .512 (22 for 43).
"This kid really has been the unsung hero of the team," coach Herstine said. "I don't think anyone knows who he is until they play against him. He's quietly torn the cover off the ball all season and has been one of the best first basemen around."
The Bobcats, who last won a WPIAL Class AA championship in 2008, entered the playoffs riding a four-game winning streak and have won 11 of their last 12 games.
"This year has been awesome," said Hineman, who like Ross lives in Brighton Township. "We've talked about this season for so long and it's finally all coming together."