Section title. WPIAL title. Goal-oriented Elizabeth Forward now wants state title

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019 | 11:29 PM


Prior to the start of this season, Elizabeth Forward softball coach Harry Rutherford approached athletic director Tim Guffey with three goals for his team: Win a section title, a WPIAL championship and state gold.

The veteran coach has crossed two of those goals off his list.

And he and his resilient group of Warriors have a chance Thursday to check off the third.

Elizabeth Forward will play for a state championship for the first time in program history when it faces West Perry, the third-place team from District 3, in the PIAA Class 4A title game at 1:30 p.m. at Penn State’s Beard Field.

“To do all three in one year would be terrific,” Rutherford said. “I have a lot of confidence in this group. They are excited and they were all thrilled and pumped up at practice (Wednesday).”

Like the Warriors (20-4), West Perry is playing in its first state championship game.

The Mustangs (23-5) are fresh off a 3-1 victory in the PIAA semifinals over Honesdale, the second-place team from District 2.

West Perry pitcher Cori Ritter kept Honesdale from providing much in terms of offense, allowing one run while walking four and striking out five in the complete-game effort.

Tiara Johnson and Gretchen Frederick each homered in the win.

“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” Rutherford said. “We don’t know a lot about them and I’m sure they don’t know a lot about us.”

Elizabeth Forward advanced to the state title game with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Mt. Pleasant on Tuesday at Seton Hill.

The Warriors, who won on a walkoff single by Bri Sersevic in the eighth inning, handed the Vikings their second loss of the season. Both came at the hands of EF with the first coming in the WPIAL championship game.

Kailey Larcinese outdueled Vikings’ ace Carolyn Alincic for the second time on Tuesday and will oppose Ritter on the mound today.

Regardless of who has been on the mound against her, Larcinese has proven to be one of the top pitchers in the WPIAL and PIAA tournaments.

The sophomore hurler allowed just one run and struck out 24 in three WPIAL playoff starts and has surrendered three runs (two earned) during three state playoff games.

In the state tournament, Larcinese has yet to allow more than three hits in a game and has punched out a total of 28 batters.

Rutherford has all the confidence in the world in his ace and believes first pitch strikes and her ability to trust her defense, one of the top units in the state, will be key.

“She has grown leaps and bounds this year with the kids she has had to face. She has faced a lot of big teams and a lot of big pitchers,” Rutherford said. “She has kept us in the games, not losing confidence in herself and not getting into trouble. And when she finds herself in trouble, she finds a way out of it.”

EF, which has won 19 straight games with its last loss coming to Mt. Pleasant on March 28, has found a way to win its last two games despite struggling to get much going offensively.

The Warriors managed to collect two hits, including an eventual game-winning single by Jordan Pinneri, in their 1-0 win over Grove City in the state quarterfinals.

In Tuesday’s win over the Vikings, EF picked up six hits — two each from Sersevic, Taylor Ludwick and Grace Smith. Sersevic drove in both of the Warriors’ runs.

In order for EF to put some runs on the board and provide some breathing room for Larcinese, a more patient approach at the plate might be necessary.

“I think we still need to concentrate on being way more disciplined,” said Rutherford, whose team struck out 14 times against Mt. Pleasant’s Alincic and seven times against Grove City ace Lizzie Malczak.

“(On Tuesday) we were swinging at pitches above our heads and out of the zone. I know they’re anxious to hit. … As long as we continue to manufacture runs, I’ll be pleased with that.”

Rutherford has been around the Elizabeth Forward softball program for close to three decades, spending several years as an assistant and the last 11 as head coach.

However, he’s never never led a team to a more historic season than this one.

He’s had his share of quality squads over the years, but this group of Warriors makes him extra proud to be making history with them.

“This is a lifetime dream for me. As a high school coach, you want to get this opportunity,” Rutherford said. “I’ve had a lot of good teams come through EF but I’m not sure if I have coached a team more bonded than this one. It’s been a pleasure to go through this experience with them.”

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