Warsaw junior Kevin Hawley delivers a pitch during Saturday's sectional semifinal game against Northridge at Elkhart Memorial High School. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
Warsaw junior Kevin Hawley delivers a pitch during Saturday's sectional semifinal game against Northridge at Elkhart Memorial High School. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
ELKHART – As it turns out, a week of practice was just what the doctor ordered for Warsaw’s varsity baseball team.
After receiving a bye in the Class 4A sectional at Elkhart Memorial High School, the Tigers had plenty of time to prepare for Saturday’s semifinal game with the Northridge Raiders.
Despite losing 11 of their last 13 games in the regular season, the Tigers looked like a rejuvenated and focused team, as they used a five-run outburst in the third inning to beat Northridge 7-3.
With the win, Warsaw improved to 11-15 on the season and advanced to today’s 6 p.m. championship game against Concord (14-15).
Concord, which split two regular-season meetings with Warsaw, advanced to the title tilt by beating the host Chargers 7-2 Saturday morning.
“We had a great week of practice,” said Warsaw coach Mike Hepler. “We focused on the kids’ mental approach and energy. They were ready to go today.”
Trailing 1-0 going into the home half of the third inning, the Tigers knotted the game when Dean Katris led off with a single and then scored on Justin Oberlin’s single two batters later.
Warsaw followed that run with four more in the frame, despite having two outs, the first of which came when Ethyn Bradley was called out for interference when he hit the catcher’s glove with his bat.
Despite that, the Tigers were able to string together some offense, something they struggled with down the stretch of the regular season.
“That inning was huge,” said Helpler. “It was the right call, and then our guys stepped up and got huge hits. I was happy to see the positive outcome.”
Both teams scored a run in the fourth inning, making the score 6-2, and the Raiders trimmed the deficit with another run in the fifth.
The Tigers scored the game’s final run in the sixth inning, and then sat the Raiders down with three consecutive outs after Ryan Summy led off the seventh with a double.
Northridge, which beat Warsaw 10-0 the last time the teams met on May 16, pounded out 10 hits to the Tigers’ seven.
The Raiders, who finished the season with a 16-12 record, left nine runners on base, compared to five for Warsaw.
“The game is a blur, but Northridge left a lot of runners on base, and that was huge for us,” said Hepler. “We got some key defensive efforts. The kids executed what we worked on in practice. We knew Northridge was going to score, we just needed to minimize the damage, and we did that.”
Oberlin and Katris had two hits each for the Tigers, while Tyler LaFollette, Brandon Shipp and Bradley had one hit each in the win.
LaFollette had Warsaw’s only extra-base hit, a double.
For Northridge, Matt Miller had two hits.
Along with Summy, Jake Bayliss also hit a double for the Raiders.
Kevin Hawley was credited with the win on the mound for Warsaw, working four innings and giving up eight hits and three runs. He walked one and struck out three.
LaFollette came on in relief, pitching three innings, giving up two hits.
Payton Carson was charged with the loss after giving up four hits and six runs.

WARSAW 7, NORTHRIDGE 3
N    001    110    0    –    3
W    005    101    X    –    7
Warsaw – Kevin Hawley (W, 4 IP, 8H, 3R, 2ER, 1BB, 3K), Tyler LaFollette (3IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 0K).
Northridge – Payton Carson (L, 3IP, 4H, 6R, 0BB, 0K), Travis Miller (1-1/3IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 2K), Steven Frye (1-2/3IP, 2H, 1R, 0BB, 1K)
2B – LaFollette (W), Jake Bayliss (NR), Ryan Summy (NR).
Records: Warsaw 11-15, Northridge 16-12