Now in his 14th year at the helm, Elizabeth Forward softball coach Harry Rutherford has established the Warriors as a virtually unmatched model of consistency.
Elizabeth Forward holds an overall record of 85-17 over the past five seasons, and the last time the Warriors lost more than five games in a season came in 2017. Elizabeth Forward has played in three WPIAL finals and one state title game during that span, so it’s almost a bit hard to believe the Warriors haven’t won a WPIAL crown since capturing their first and only title in program history in 2019.
With the way this team is playing so far this spring, though, there’s plenty of reason to believe Elizabeth Forward’s four-year “drought” might soon be a thing of the past.
“The team is looking really good,” Rutherford said. “They’re hitting great. Shelby [Telegdy] is pitching great. I can’t ask for anything more.”
During its unbeaten start to the 2023 campaign, the Warriors (12-0, 9-0) have outscored their mostly overmatched opponents by a combined score of 123-7 — averaging more than 10 runs per game while allowing only 0.58 runs per contest. Sure, they have enjoyed plenty of success in recent years, but never this much dominance.
Of course, Elizabeth Forward might have a bit more hardware in its trophy case if not for the existence of two once-in-a-generation pitchers in Belle Vernon grad Bailey Parshall (now at Penn State) and Beaver grad Payton List (now at Virginia Tech). Parshall led the Leopards to a 5-4 win against the Warriors in the 2018 Class 4A title game, and List helped the Bobcats beat Elizabeth Forward in last year’s Class 4A final, 6-0.
The Warriors had a stellar pitcher of their own from 2018-21 in Kailey Larcinese, who pitched a shutout in a 3-0 win against Mount Pleasant in the 2019 WPIAL title game and helped lead the team all the way to the state finals. But now that List is out of the way, it’s Telegdy who has come front and center as the top two-way player in Class 4A.
With an overpowering fastball and impeccable command, the standout junior has posted seven shutouts in her first 12 starts to the season while also doubling as one of the most feared power hitters in the area. Perhaps her finest performance came when she hurled a no-hitter in a 1-0 win against Preble, Wis., at the KSA SunSational Spring Training tournament in Orlando, Fla., on March 21.
So far this season, Telegdy is 12-0 with an ERA of 0.47 and a WHIP of 0.53, striking out 111 batters while walking only 15 in 60 innings pitched. Couple that with a .667 batting average and 1.119 slugging percentage along with 10 doubles, 3 home runs and 17 RBIs, and you have a bona fide superstar who just keeps getting better.
“She’s always been a good hitter. I’ve known her since she was 8, and she just loves to hit,” Rutherford said. “We took a little bit of a different approach with her coming into this year. The focus was, pitching-wise, we’ve got to hit the outside corner a lot better than what she was doing last year. She was great with her fastball inside, but had a little bit of wildness when she tried to hit the outside corner. And her changeup has always been pretty good.
“We focused on her curve on the outside corner, and especially her fastball on the outside this season. She spent a lot of time working on that and has improved vastly there.”
Telegdy is far from the only featured player for the Warriors this season, though. Elizabeth Forward has seen contributions from players of all ages all up and down the lineup, with freshmen Hannah Evans and Julia Resnik enjoying stellar debut seasons while sophomore catcher Alivia Grimm and senior second baseman Lauren Vay continue to shine.
A dazzling defender in center field, Rutherford said the lengthy Evans resembles “an antelope” in the outfield, and she is also batting .519 with 3 doubles, 2 triples, a home run, 9 RBIs and 13 runs scored. As for Resnik, the younger sister of Robert Morris sophomore Anna Resnik has had no trouble picking up where her older sister left off in 2021. The freshman shortstop has been spectacular both at the plate and in the field, batting .610 and slugging 1.000 with 5 doubles and a home run while leading the team with 4 triples, 18 RBIs and 19 runs scored.
“Hannah has been doing a great job in center field. She’s got the speed that we need. She’s running down fly balls that need to be caught out there, and she’s also doing well at the plate,” Rutherford said. “[Resnik] definitely has speed, she runs the bases well. She covers a lot of ground at shortstop and has a strong arm. She’s your complete package. She’s definitely a D-I candidate.”
An all-section selection as a freshman, Grimm is proving to be no one-year wonder while batting .500 with two doubles, a homer and 12 RBIs on top of her steady presence defensively behind the plate. Meanwhile, Vay has transitioned to second base seamlessly after earning all-section honors in the outfield last season, hitting .471 with 5 doubles, 3 triples, 7 RBIs and 13 runs scored.
Other senior leaders like Carlee Soukup and Bella Gimiliano provide the team with a solid core of experienced veterans to go with the rising young stars. And with Telegdy proving to be virtually untouchable inside the circle, this could be the Warriors’ best team yet under Rutherford — and that’s certainly saying a lot.
“You always want to have a good core group coming back, and we’ve been pretty fortunate,” Rutherford said. “And I have a good administration. In some places, some schools tell their coaches what to do, who to play and when to play. … They’ve let me run the team, and I don’t have anything in this race except to put the best team out there.”
Shaler’s quest for perfection still in play
Along with Elizabeth Forward, Neshannock and Carmichaels, Shaler is one of four undefeated teams left in the WPIAL. In the midst of a remarkable season, the Titans (14-0, 8-0) are the only team without a loss in Class 5A or Class 6A, and they’re doing so while facing an unforgiving schedule that includes wins against North Allegheny, Franklin Regional and two wins against section-rival North Hills.
Having outscored its opponents by a combined score of 145-29, Shaler is getting it done in a variety of ways, sometimes winning via the long ball while other times relying on pitching and defense to finish the job. In a 4-1 win against Fox Chapel on April 21, it was all-section senior and Kent State recruit Eloise Facher who hit a home run to lead the Titans to victory, while senior pitcher and Muskingum recruit Bethany Rodman tossed a shutout in a 6-0 win against North Hills on Monday. On Wednesday, it was Emily Spears who hit a homer to power Shaler to an 8-2 win against Plum to keep the perfect season alive.
The Titans’ unbeaten start is even more impressive when you consider the fact that Facher and Rodman are Shaler’s only returning starters from 2022, when the team finished 16-4 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals. For the season, Facher is batting .619 with 7 home runs, 24 RBIs and 21 runs scored out of the leadoff spot, while Rodman is hitting .617 with eight homers and 33 RBIs to go with a pitching record of 12-0 and a 2.31 ERA.
Frazier catching fire at right time
Ever since opening the season with a 5-2 defeat March 22 at Charleroi, there aren’t many teams that can say they have been playing better softball than Frazier.
Riding a nine-game winning streak after a 23-0 win Wednesday at Bishop Canevin, the Commodores (9-1, 8-0) have left a trail of destruction in their wake while lighting up scoreboards all across Western Pa. In each of its nine victories this season, Frazier has scored 12-plus runs while allowing two runs or less in eight out of nine. That all adds up to a combined output of 151 runs scored to only 15 runs allowed on the season.
After going unbeaten all the way to the WPIAL Class 2A championship game a year ago, the Commodores figure to be a major contender for the WPIAL Class 1A title after dropping down for the current two-year cycle. Defending champion Union (11-2, 9-0) and unbeaten Carmichaels (13-0, 9-0) will certainly have something to say about that, but it’s hard not to tab Frazier as the team to beat in Class 1A this season.