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Southmoreland softball knocks off Elizabeth Forward

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 8:18 p.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Southmoreland baserunner Ashley Baker steals home on a wild pitch as Elizabeth Forward pitcher Anna Gatti rushes in to cover the plate during their April 5, 2013 contest in Alverton.

Southmoreland's softball team is in the process of adjusting to a new level of competition after being bumped from Class AA to Class AAA this season. The transition hasn't always been smooth, but Friday, the Scotties gained a measure of confidence by taking down Elizabeth Forward, 7-4, in a key Section 3-AAA contest.

“This is a huge win for us coming into this section,” Southmoreland coach Kim Kelley said. “We know the history of EF, so this was really big.”

The Warriors advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA championship game in 2012 and hope to do so again. But against the Scotties, Elizabeth Forward played an uncharacteristically poor game defensively.

“When you're going up against one of the top pitchers in the WPIAL (Southmoreland's Anna Gatti), you hope you can scratch out a few runs,” Elizabeth Forward coach Harry Rutherford said. “We did that, but we had five errors, and that was a big contributor. (Gatti) kept our big bats silent, but we had opportunities, and we didn't field the ball.”

Southmoreland jumped out a 2-0 lead in the first when Briana Bunner hit an inside-the-park, two-run homer down the left-field line off Elizabeth Forward pitcher Portia McBride. McBride gave up seven hits while striking out nine.

The Warriors (5-1, 2-1) benefitted from two Southmoreland errors to tie the game in the third, but the Scotties (3-2, 1-1) restored their two-run lead in their half of the inning. Vanessa Richards doubled and scored on a single by Kelsey Kuhns. Then pinch-runner Jae Pawlikowsky alertly scored on a passed ball.

Southmoreland made it 5-2 in the fourth as an Elizabeth Forward error allowed Rikki Brown to drive in Sam Suhan with an RBI single.

In the fifth, Elizabeth Forward pulled to within a run when McKenna Kern ripped an RBI triple. She also scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-4.

However, Elizabeth Forward's comeback bid was snuffed out when the Scotties scored two runs in the sixth. A pair of Warriors errors put two runners on base, and they both came around to score. Rachelle Allison picked up an RBI groundout before Brown drove in her second run of the game with a double.

“Up to this point, we have been very good defensively,” Rutherford said. “To do this is unacceptable for a team that is looking to get back to the WPIAL championship this year.”

With a three-run lead, Gatti was able to close the door with a perfect seventh, which included two strikeouts. She gave up just three hits and struck out 10.

“Anna pitched a great game for us, and our hitters came through when they needed to,” Kelley said.

Kelley was pleased with the way her team finished a very busy week.

“It's been a stacked week,” Kelley said. “We had four huge games and we went 2-2, and to finish off the week like this says a lot about our program.”

Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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