Beaver baseball coach Bruce Herstine was worried about how his team would play in the WPIAL Class AA championship game Tuesday night after watching his Bobcats scrimmage last weekend.
"We played two scrimmages and we were terrible," Herstine said. "And I was nervous coming in because I thought, 'Man, we did not look good.'
"But they played well when they had to."
Beaver Area (17-3) became the first team all season to beat Quaker Valley (21-1), knocking off the top seed, 7-1, at Consol Energy Park.
One of the keys for the Bobcats is their experience. Beaver started eight seniors against the Quakers. Although none of them had played in a WPIAL title game before, most have played travel baseball together since they were young and have played in big-time games.
"They've played in this situation in Cooperstown and Cal Ripken [youth tournaments]," Herstine said. "They've been all over the country. I get more nervous than they do. Honestly, I do.
Herstine knew his team was loose when he came to practice Monday. The Bobcats were practicing at the school's football field to get used to playing on an artificial surface similar to Consol Energy Park. A few of the players sneaked into the press box and played music through the speakers, and a dance party ensued on the field.
"We knew what we have," said senior right-handed pitcher Austin Ross. "We know we're a good team."
No one did a better job than Ross. A Radford University recruit, he gave up just one run on three hits in a complete-game win. He struck out 10 and didn't walk a batter. He also drove in two runs during the Bobcats' five-run third inning that broke open a scoreless game.
Jonathan Hill also helped Ross' cause with three RBIs. Jalen Lawson and Austin Logan each knocked in a run as well.
Now the Bobcats will prepare for their opening PIAA Class AA tournament game, which will be Monday against the District 9 winner.
The last time Beaver won the WPIAL Class AA title (2008), the Bobcats lost their first state playoff game to Bishop McCort.
"In '08, I had a phenomenal team and we tanked in the first round of states," Herstine said. "The day we were going to that state game, we were so relaxed, maybe not relaxed, but so content with what they had and didn't put the effort in."
Ross is aware of the challenge the team faces.
"It's going to be tough [to refocus] after this one," Ross said. "But in all seriousness, we have to come out and practice hard and keep doing what we're doing."hsbaseball