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Freshman fill-in Matthews tosses 4-hitter as EF routs No. 4 Southmoreland

| Thursday, April 17, 2014,
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | for the Tribune Review
Elizabeth Forward's Jessia Cartia (right) celebrates with teammate McKenna Kern after her sixth inning hit helped defeat Southmoreland on April 14, 2014, at William Penn Field.

Elizabeth Forward built a big lead early against No. 4 Southmoreland and kept adding to it Wednesday until a 10-run rule ended the WPIAL Section 3-AAA softball game after five innings.

Freshman right-hander Lauren Matthews took care of the rest for the Warriors.

Matthews, making her first career start, pitched a four-hitter, and Elizabeth Forward dealt Southmoreland its first WPIAL Section 3-AAA loss with a 11-1 victory at home to move into a first-place tie with the Scotties.

Kelsey Benedek drove in four runs with a pair of hits for Elizabeth Foward (7-3, 5-1), which took advantage of five Southmoreland errors to surge to a 7-0 lead.

“This was an important game and an important win for us,” Elizabeth Forward coach Harry Rutherford said. “We hit the ball well. We hit some good shots.”

The Warriors pitched well, too, thanks to Matthews, who appears to have overcome offseason shoulder surgery. She was thrust into the lineup as the team's top pitcher midway through Elizabeth Forward's previous game against South Park, when No. 1 pitcher Sarah Turek was sidelined with back spasms.

“She's usually our JV pitcher,” Rutherford said of Matthews. “When Sarah comes back, we may have to make some changes. We're going to have two pretty good pitchers the rest of the way. For now, we'll look to Lauren.”

With Southmoreland (6-2, 5-1) committing five errors in the first two inings, EF took a seven-run lead against Katie Troisi, who was relieved by Syracuse recruit Anna Marie Gatti with two outs in the second.

It didn't matter. Gatti ended the second-inning rally and got through the third unscathed, but the Warriors scored twice each in the fourth and fifth to seize a 10-run lead.

“All those errors are uncharacteristic for us,” Southmoreland coach Todd Bunner said. “We had zero errors in our last game. We really only average about one or two a game.”

Matthews, who struck out just one but did not walk a batter, also benefited from an 11-hit Elizabeth Forward attack, which included two each from Benedek, Caitlyn Arico and Jessica Cartia.

Arico and McKenna Kern added two RBIs each for the Warriors.

“For a young pitcher, a big key is your defense,” Rutherford said. “That and getting the bat on the ball. We did both today.”

Elizabeth Forward committed three errors of its own — two in the third inning, though Southmoreland was unable to capitalize. The Scotties got their only run against Matthews in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Gatti, scoring Briana Bunner, who led off the inning with a double.

“All along, we keep saying that you have to come prepared to play in this section,” Todd Bunner said. “If you don't come to the field ready to play error-free and hit the ball, you lose. It's that simple. Elizabeth Forward got some momentum today, and they absolutely took advantage of that. They played a great game.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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