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Elizabeth Forward softball team back atop section

| Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 10:42 p.m.

It was quite evident that Elizabeth Forward pitcher Portia McBride didn't have her best stuff against Thomas Jefferson — that is, until her best stuff was needed.

McBride worked out of jams in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, left runners stranded at third in two of those innings, and allowed the Jaguars only three hits in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position as Elizabeth Forward climbed back on top of the Section 3-AAA standings with a 3-1 win over Thomas Jefferson at William Penn Field.

“Portia was able to come through with some key pitches at critical points, and that's what she needs to do,” Elizabeth Forward coach Harry Rutherford said. “She pitched well and hit her spots better than she has been.”

McBride retired the first seven batters and finished with eight strikeouts but also allowed eight hits — seven of which came in the final four innings.

“It shows her character, and how she is a seasoned pitcher to be able to buckle down and do what she had to do,” Rutherford said.

McBride got plenty of help from the top of the order. Jen Keefer (2 for 3), Katelyn Shinavski (1 for 3) and Caitlyn Arico (2 for 2) went a combined 5 for 8. Each had an RBI.

“The top of the order did what they had to do,” Rutherford said. “Jen Keefer has been excellent at the leadoff spot. She is leading the team in hitting, and her on-base percentage is outstanding. When she gets on base a couple times, you know that you are going to score.”

After the Warriors (7-1, 4-1) began the game with three consecutive singles to start the game, Thomas Jefferson pitcher Taylor Dubs pitched well. She allowed only three hits over the final five innings, with the only blemishes being Keefer's RBI single and Arico's sacrifice fly in the fifth.

“You could see that they were getting rattled because they weren't hitting the ball like they normally did,” Thomas Jefferson coach Heidi Karcher said.

Rutherford put the blame of why his team struggled at the plate to not being used to Dubs' velocity.

“The speed wasn't there for our hitters, and it is tough for us to hit a slower pitcher,” Rutherford said. “To start the game off with back-to-back-to-back hits, you think you are going to blow it away. Still, we had opportunities, but we just couldn't come through with the big hit.”

You don't have to tell Karcher about that.

TJ (1-4, 1-4) had a chance to score in the fourth when Becca Bachman and Kyla Prickett singled. But McBride got Amanda O'Toole to pop out to the second baseman to end the inning.

TJ had another golden chance in the sixth after EF made it 3-0. Rachel Bowers doubled, Rachel Battle singled, and Prickett stroked an RBI single. But McBride ended the rally by striking out the side.

“When you are not scoring, the pitcher has to hold the team down,” Rutherford said.

TJ has one last chance in the seventh. Dubs led off the inning with a single and moved to third when the ball got past Keefer in center. McBride retired the next three batters to end the game.

“Every day, it is a different game for us,” Karcher said. “Sometimes we knock them in, and today happened to be the time we didn't. I am pleased on how we hit. Unfortunately, some of the hits didn't happen at the right time.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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