Elizabeth Forward softball moves into tie for first with win

| Thursday, April 18, 2013, 10:27 p.m.

Elizabeth Forward had several chances to blow West Mifflin out when the two teams met Thursday, but the Warriors could not come up with a big hit with runners in scoring position.

In the eighth inning, they finally came through.

Virginia Roche hit a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth to score Katelyn Shinavski and lift Elizabeth Forward (9-2, 6-2) to a 2-1 victory over West Mifflin and seize a share of first place in Section 3. The win gave the Warriors a sweep of the season series with the Titans and the inside track on a higher seed in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

“We had opportunity after opportunity after opportunity, and you get lucky when you hang around that long,” coach Harry Rutherford said. “With a hitting team like West Mifflin, you're not going to hold them down forever, but fortunately we finally did get lucky.”

Shinavski opened the eighth with a single to center off West Mifflin starter Paige Flore then went to second on a base hit by Caitlyn Arico. After the runners were bunted over, Ashley Baker walked on a 3-1 pitch to load the bases for Roche.

On the first pitch, Roche hit a high fly to left that Shannon Davis caught and quickly threw toward the plate. West Mifflin catcher Alyssa Cairns was waiting for the on-target throw, but it never got there.

Instead, Flore cut off the throw about 7 feet up the third-base line and tried to flip the ball quickly to the plate rather than let it go through. Before she could get the ball from her glove to her hand, Shinavski slid home with the winning run.

“You can use hindsight or foresight, what are you going to do, but even if (I thought she shouldn't have cut if off) I would never tell her because she feels bad enough already,” West Mifflin coach Casey Phillips said. “I thought we had chances to win the game in regulation with balls hit right to them, but it was a great game, and you knew it was going to be a dogfight.”

Through five innings, West Mifflin (10-2, 7-2) was 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position. The biggest missed opportunity came in the top of the first when the Titans came away empty with runners at second and third and one out.

Elizabeth Forward wasn't much better as it was 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position, but the only hit was a big one. Courtney Hrabosky had a two-out bunt single to load the bases in the bottom of the second. Pitcher Portia McBride then drew a full-count RBI walk to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead.

Staked to a lead, McBride settled in and allowed one hit and struck out three in the second through fifth innings. But in the sixth, Kaytlyn Andress, who finished 3 for 4, singled, went to second on a wild pitch and scored the tying run on Marla Small's line-drive single to center.

Despite the loss, West Mifflin is looking at the big picture. With three section games remaining, all the Titans need is a win April 25 against Yough (7-4, 5-4) to clinch an outright WPIAL Class AAA playoff berth for the first time since 1998.

Yough hosts Elizabeth Forward on Tuesday, and a Cougars loss also would lock up no worse than a third-place tie and a postseason slot for the Titans. A Warriors win also would give them a spot in the tournament with a season sweep of Yough.

“The kids were upset, and if they weren't upset, that would be a problem,” Phillips said. “We're very emotionally vested, and I told them that we control our own destiny, and we win and we're in. We're trying to punch our ticket for the dance.”

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