South Xtra: Elizabeth Forward recognizes that it's better late than never

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In the NCAA basketball tournament, some of the toughest matchups are against those pesky No. 12 seeds.

The same could be said for the 2014 WPIAL baseball playoffs.

As a No. 12 seed, Elizabeth Forward knocked off No. 5 Montour Monday to continue its impressive late-season surge.

"I think we have a good shot if we play well, and that goes for any team," coach Frank Champ said. "It is going to come down to little things. Who is pitching well and who gets the timely hits."

The Warriors received a perfect mix of timely hits and pitching to grab the 4-3 win, but it wasn't easy making the playoffs in the first place.

The Warriors (12-7, 7-5) struggled to a 3-3 record at the beginning of the season in Class AAA Section 4 and couldn't find the consistency needed to make a deep playoff run.

"We were sitting at 3-5 in the section," Champ said. "We got together and said we knew we were a better team. We were beating ourselves in the early section games. We weren't making routine plays. Our backs were against the wall and we had to win out.

"At the beginning of the year we were frustrated because we knew we were a better team than we showed. Let's just play fundamental baseball, make the timely hits and routine plays."

Whether it was the pressure that forced them to play better or the fact that they just started making the plays, the Warriors went on a tear in the final week.

With no room to spare, the Warriors went 4-0 in the section in the last week, including wins against Thomas Jefferson and South Park -- both playoff teams.

"Luke [Padezan] said it is like we are playing four playoff games," Champ said. "We went in with that mentality that we had to win it all and the kids played well."

Padezan is one of the senior leaders who played well down the stretch. In the last week, he picked up wins against Thomas Jefferson, South Park and the playoff-clinching win against Ringgold in the final game of the regular season.

Ryan Wardropper and Andrew Jacobs have contributed on the mound and at the plate all season as well. Wardropper, a Seton Hill recruit, recorded two saves in the final week and Jacobs picked up the other section win against Belle Vernon.

"We have a good core of seniors," Champ said. "The leadership was there throughout. The biggest thing is good pitching. We had to have some timely hits. At the top of the order Jake Terrick and Luke had timely hits in those games to score runs."

The Warriors have won six of their past seven games, including the first-round win against Montour, but it was a non-section win against Chartiers Valley that got the ball rolling for Champ's squad.

"We beat Chartiers Valley which is a very good team," Champ said. "It was a good win for us against a good Triple-A school. At that point we knew this was the pivotal one. There was no margin for error."

In their quest for their second WPIAL title in four years -- they won in 2011 -- the Warriors will play a quarterfinal game Saturday at 11 a.m. at Woodland Hills against the winner of West Mifflin/South Fayette, who were scheduled to play Wednesday.

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