Elizabeth Forward had its perfect season derailed by section-rival Belle Vernon in the WPIAL semifinals, and the Warriors weren’t about to let a chance for revenge slip away.
After controlling most of the game and taking a 2-0 lead into the fifth inning, the Leopards (19-5) pounced on Elizabeth Forward ace Shelby Telegdy for three runs to take a 3-2 lead into the sixth. But sophomore catcher Alivia Grimm came up clutch for the Warriors with the season on the line, belting a two-out, two-strike, two-run double in the top of the seventh inning to lead Elizabeth Forward (20-1) to a 4-3 win in a heart-pounding PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal clash at Hempfield High School.
“I believe it was a 2-2 count, and [Grimm] just drilled that line drive into left-center field,” Warriors coach Harry Rutherford said. “We’re really pleased with the way they fought back after falling behind.”
One of the top two-way players in the WPIAL, Telegdy helped her own cause with an RBI single in the top of the third to bring home freshman Julia Resnik before swatting a solo homer in the top of the fifth to make it a 2-0 lead for Elizabeth Forward. But Belle Vernon battled back in the bottom of the fifth, first getting on the board with a sacrifice fly by Gracie Sokol before Mia Zubovic put the Leopards on top, 3-2, with a go-ahead two-run single.
After a scoreless sixth, Grimm came to bat with two runners on and the Warriors down to their final out in the seventh, and the rest is history.
“I knew we could come back,” Rutherford said. “I felt with the lineup we had, that we definitely could score a run or two. The top of the lineup came through. Shelby got the walk, and Alivia came up with the big hit.”
Thursday’s memorable matchup was the fourth meeting this season between the Class 4A Section 2 foes, with Elizabeth Forward winning the first two matchups handily before Belle Vernon turned the tables with a 10-1 win in the WPIAL semifinals. The Leopards then went on to defeat Montour, 8-7, in a thrilling WPIAL Class 4A championship game.
Now, it’s the Warriors who find themselves one win away from making their first trip to the PIAA championship game since 2019.
“It was tough to prep for the game, knowing this was the fourth time we’re playing each other. They’re a great team,” Rutherford said. “I’m not sure what I can say, other than everybody on this team just hanging in there and Alivia Grimm having the best game of her life.”
Other Class 4A
• Kaitlyn Molitoris pitched a complete-game shutout with 14 strikeouts for Montour (17-4) as the Spartans knocked off District 3 third-place finisher Archbishop Wood (13-9) at Messiah University, 5-0. Montour will now face Elizabeth Forward for the first time this season on Monday for a spot in the PIAA Class 4A championship game.
• Freshman Lauren Howard doubled, homered and scored both runs for Hempfield (20-3), and sophomore Riley Miller pitched her second consecutive shutout after taking a perfect game into the fifth inning in a 2-0 win against District 1 third-place finisher Downingtown East (22-4) at Cumberland Valley High School. The Spartans will now face District 3 champion Cumberland Valley (19-5) on Monday in the PIAA Class 6A semifinals.
• Senior Bethany Rodman got the scoring started with a three-run homer in the bottom of the first, then Maya Simunovic added a solo shot in the second before Ella Nash tacked on a solo homer of her own in the third to give Shaler (21-1) more than enough cushion in an eventual 5-1 win against WPIAL champion Trinity (20-3) at Gateway High School. After avenging a 5-4 defeat against the Hillers in the WPIAL semifinals, Shaler will now move on to face Armstrong (21-2) on Monday for a trip to the PIAA championship game.
• After winning back-to-back WPIAL titles, Avonworth (22-2) saw its season come to a stunning end in the PIAA quarterfinals in a 6-1 loss against District 6 champion Juniata (24-3) at Saint Francis University. Although the Antelopes had hoped to defend their PIAA championship, they will likely have a good shot at making another deep playoff run next year, with all nine players in their starting lineup set to return in 2024.
• Facing many of her longtime friends from the town she grew up in, Neshannock sophomore Addy Frye helped the Lancers (22-0) survive a scare from District 10 champion Sharpsville (19-4), pitching a complete game with seven strikeouts in a 2-1 win at Westminster College. This was the second win of the season against Sharpsville for Neshannock, which has now won 48 games in a row entering the PIAA semifinals. The Lancers will now face another unbeaten powerhouse in District 5 champion Everett (24-0), which has scored 27 runs in two state playoff games.
• Sophomore standout Mia Preuhs tossed a complete game with 17 strikeouts and registered an immaculate inning by striking out the side on nine pitches in the fourth, leading Union (19-3) to a 5-2 win against District 6 runner-up West Branch (20-5) at Heindl Field in Dubois, Pa. The Scotties will face District 6 champion Claysburg-Kimmel (22-3), which defeated Chartiers-Houston (15-7), 5-1, for a spot in the PIAA championship game.
PIAA quarterfinal scores
Hempfield 2, Downingtown East 0
Armstrong 15, West Chester Rustin 0
Shaler 5, Trinity 1
Elizabeth Forward 4, Belle Vernon 3
Montour 5, Archbishop Wood 0
Juniata 6, Avonworth 1
Neshannock 2, Sharpsville 1
Claysburg-Kimmel 5, Chartiers-Houston 1
Glendale 5, Carmichaels 4
Union 5, West Branch 2