Elizabeth Forward softball team edges Highlands, 3-2

| Monday, May 19, 2014, 10:00 p.m.

Undeterred by Highlands' game-tying home run in the top of the seventh inning, the Elizabeth Forward softball team scored a run in the bottom of the inning for a WPIAL Class AAA first-round victory.

Mercedesz Boyce scored on Lauren Cain's single for a 3-2 victory over the Golden Rams at Hempfield.

The Warriors (13-6) will play South Fayette in the quarterfinals 2 p.m. Tuesday at Baldwin.

Highlands (7-6) saw its season end with an opening-round playoff loss for the fourth straight season.

Down 2-1 with one out in the seventh, Golden Rams sophomore Katelyn Kuniak blasted her second home run of the season over the left field fence to tie the game.

Jessica Cartia led off the bottom of the seventh with a single. After Boyce entered the game, she was sacrificed to second by Lexi Ribarchak, who went 3 for 3.

Ashley Baker's bloop single sent Boyce to third and set the stage for Cain's single to make a winner out of freshman pitcher Lauren Mathews.

“Unfortunately, they get that blast in the seventh that tied the game up,” Elizabeth Forward coach Harry Rutherford said. “It was a little disheartening, but I got a ninth-grader out there in only her second year of pitching, so this is a lot to expect out a freshman to come into these types of games.”

Despite enduring two layoffs with the rainy weather last week, both teams played well defensively.

Katie Grosholz led off the fifth with a single, and Melissa Gustafson bunted and was retired. Grosholz strayed too far off second and was thrown out by Kelsey Benedek.

After Kuniak's homer in the seventh, Olivia Graff walked and Gorsholz attempted to bunt. Cartia dived in front of the plate to catch the bunt and fired to get Graff, who had broken for second.

“We train that way all year,” Rutherford said. “When we first start practicing, I drive it into their heads that it's not only one play, there's always a second play to be made.”

With Grosholz striking out just four, Highlands defenders handled the other 15 outs flawlessly.

“They're a group of good-hearted girls,” Golden Rams coach Jenn Koprivnikar said. “Our outfielders and infielders both cover a lot of ground, and our catcher (Holly Penn) does a good job making the calls on high pops.”

Highlands took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third. Cassidy Runyan's single brought home Gustafson.

The Warriors quickly tied it. McKenna Kern's single scored Courtney Hrabosky.

Elizabeth Forward took a 2-1 lead when Kern drew a bases-loaded walk.

“The strike zone looked tight, at least to us, but we told Katie she had to work through it,” Koprivnikar said. “And she did.”

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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