Elizabeth Forward softball tops Grove City in PIAA quarterfinals

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Friday, June 7, 2019 | 9:57 PM


Elizabeth Forward’s Kailey Larcinese threw one of her best games of the season Friday, shutting down Grove City for a 1-0 win in the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals.

Larcinese allowed just two hits over her seven innings in a performance coach Harry Rutherford called nearly perfect.

“Larcinese was outstanding today,” he said. “I don’t think she missed a pitch I called all day. As far as the coaches are concerned, this was her best game of the year. When I chart her pitches and I see there is a miss, I put a big M in the book, and we talk about it. I don’t think there was one M there today.”

The key to Larcinese’s success was her ability to throw first-pitch strikes. She got ahead of 21 of the 24 batters she faced, which allowed her to pitch her game.

“When I get that first-pitch strike, I know that I can mix pitches, hit different corners and throw different spins,” she said. “It just really helps to keep the batters off balance when I get ahead.”

Larcinese and Grove City hurler Lizzy Scott went pitch for pitch against each other as both teams were hitless through the first two innings.

Elizabeth Forward didn’t put a runner on base until the third inning, when Mackenzie Kearns fell behind 0-2 before earning a two-out walk.

“For the number nine hitter to keep battling away and draw that walk was obviously a big key,” Rutherford said. “That was a tremendous play by her to be able to hang in there and draw the walk.”

Anna Resnik was hit by a pitch, which brought Jordan Pinneri to the plate with a chance to give her team the lead. After watching two straight long at-bats, Pinneri came to the plate with a plan.

“I’m a lefty, so if I see them throwing outside to a righty that is going to be an inside pitch for me,” Pinneri said. “I came up after Anna and just thought, ‘Let’s look at an inside pitch high and just drive the ball.’ ”

After fouling off five straight pitches with a 3-2 count, Pinneri found the one she wanted, lining a single to center that brought home Kearns with the game’s only run.

“For Jordan (Pinneri) to come through after fouling off, I don’t know how many foul balls was incredible,” Rutherford said. “She just kept fouling and fouling, and then she lifted one to the outfield to make it easy for us to score.”

One run was all Larcinese needed as she retired 12 of the final 15 batters. The game ended when Grove City’s Chloe Saylor flied out to left, sending the Warriors to the PIAA semifinals for the first time in school history.

“This is the farthest (Elizabeth Forward) has ever made it in the state playoffs,” Rutherford said. “We made it to a second-round game once before but never won one until now. We just keep piling on the records at EF this year.”

Brooke Markland collected the only other hit for the Warriors. Larcinese recorded eight strikeouts.

Elizabeth Forward heads into the PIAA semifinals Monday against Mt. Pleasant in a rematch of the WPIAL Class 4A championship game. Rutherford and his team know what to expect as they continue on the road to the PIAA championships.

“We want to make sure we put the ball in play,” he said. “We had a lot of fly outs today, so we are going to have to get our bunts down and hit line drives. It is somebody that we have seen twice now, so we aren’t going to surprise them, and they aren’t going to surprise us.”

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