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Elizabeth Forward softball tops West Mifflin in early section showdown

| Friday, March 28, 2014, 9:45 p.m.

Harry Rutherford loves Florida.

The Elizabeth Forward softball coach is a big fan of Myrtle Beach, S.C., as well, and Friday's Section 3-AAA opener against West Mifflin is the reason why.

Elizabeth Forward spent last week at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex playing three games and practicing as much as they wanted while West Mifflin was battling sub-zero temperatures back home.

So, when the two teams who shared the section title a year ago met at William Penn Field on Friday, Elizabeth Forward looked in midseason form.

The Warriors banged out nine hits off reigning Daily News Player of the Year Paige Flore and cruised to a 6-2 win over West Mifflin. It was the fourth consecutive time EF has beat the Titans.

“When we went to Florida, we practiced in three time slots, played three varsity games and four junior varsity games and that gave us a lot of reps,” Rutherford said. “It was definitely beneficial for us, and you saw today.”

It was the second straight year that EF (3-2, 1-0) went south at the beginning of the season (Myrtle Beach last year) and the second consecutive year the Warriors opened section play beating West Mifflin (3-1, 1-1).

“It is always great to come out of the shoot with a win,” Rutherford said. “We have targets on our backs, as well as West Mifflin, being that we were co-champs from last year. Everybody is going to want to take the champs down. When you put that first win up against a team like West Mifflin, people are going to start feeling you are as good as last year.”

Elizabeth Forward got a strong performance from sophomore Sarah Turek, who pitched seven innings while scattering six hits and striking out four.

Turek was backed by a two-run double by Caitlyn Arico, an RBI double by Emily Jacko and two hits by Lexi Ribarchak.

West Mifflin's Alyssa Cairns hit two doubles and scored twice.

“We were sloppy,” West Mifflin coach Casey Phillips said. “We didn't play our best in all phases of the game. We had breakdowns, and you can't have that against a good team like EF. We had some mental errors that won't show up in a scorebook.”

The game was scoreless into the second when Flore ran into control problems with two outs. After Ribarchak singled, Flore walked Lauren Cain to put runners at first and second. It appeared West Mifflin would get out of the inning unscathed when Ribarchak was thrown out trying to steal third. “They are walking off the field and I came in and asked the umpire wasn't that ball four?” Rutherford said.

It was, thus sending West Mifflin back on the field. Flore walked Courtney Hrabosky to give EF a 1-0 lead.

“They only got one so I don't think it hurt that much,” Phillips said. “I don't know if we panicked a little bit after that. We made a mistake after that and you have to have a short memory after something goes wrong and we didn't.”

A throwing error in the third after back-to-back hits by McKenna Kern and Jessica Cartia pushed the lead to 3-0.

It was more than enough offense for the left-handed Turek.

“You don't see lefties a lot,” Phillips said. “I don't think it was that. I think it was more our pitch selection was not where it needed to be. It is different but it didn't make a difference. We are a resilient bunch. Hopefully we can put this behind us quickly.”

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