Ever since capturing its first WPIAL softball title and reaching the PIAA championship game in 2019, each of Elizabeth Forward’s ensuing seasons have followed a similar script.

Start the season strong, earn a top seed for the WPIAL playoffs, then make a deep run to either the WPIAL semifinals or championship game, only to fall just short of another title.

Last year appeared to be the Warriors’ most promising unit yet, as Elizabeth Forward went undefeated through the regular season before a stunning upset loss in the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals to eventual champion Belle Vernon. The Warriors then avenged that defeat against the Leopards in the PIAA quarterfinals before falling to Montour in the PIAA semifinals to end their season with a record of 20-2.

Now, after several years of close calls, all signs are pointing toward Elizabeth Forward finally going all the way in 2024.

“They’re down to earth and pretty well focused,” said Warriors coach Harry Rutherford, now in his 15th year at the helm. “They all know they were expected to do a little more last year. They want to do that, and it’s on their back. They want to get that monkey off their back and prove they’re as good as everybody thought they were.

“I think they have the confidence in themselves that they can repeat [last year’s success] and just go that extra step and get to the finals.”

It all starts with senior pitcher Shelby Telegdy, as it has for the vast majority of her stellar varsity career. One of the most overpowering pitchers in the area, Telegdy also doubles as a feared slugger with the ability to change any game with one swing of the bat.

As a junior, Telegdy posted a record of 20-2 with a sterling 0.75 ERA and 176 strikeouts, but she might have been even better at the plate, batting .589 with 13 doubles, 7 home runs and 30 RBIs despite rarely seeing good pitches to hit. Through three games in 2024, the Seton Hill recruit is batting .600 with four doubles, five RBIs and an OPS of 1.636, along with a record of 2-0 to go with a 1.62 ERA and 16 strikeouts to five walks in 13 innings pitched.

“Let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone hit the ball like she does,” said sophomore shortstop Julia Resnik. “I’m first in the lineup to get it started, and if I’m on second or third, or even at first, I know she’s going to bring me home. … If I’m at third, I usually scream at her, ‘Don’t hit me.’”

Elizabeth Forward’s Shelby Telegdy (24) celebrates with teammates after hitting a home run during a PIAA Class 4A semifinal against Montour, Monday, June 12, 2023, at Gateway High School in Monroeville. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Having a multi-purpose weapon like Telegdy is a great place to start, but all championship ballclubs need more than just one impact player — and Elizabeth Forward has plenty of star power to go around.

After bursting onto the scene as the PUP Rookie of the Year in 2023, Resnik is showing no signs of a sophomore slump for the Warriors — quite the opposite, in fact. Resnik is picking up right where she left off a year ago, when she batted .573 to go with 9 doubles, 9 triples, 3 home runs, 31 RBIs and 33 runs scored while striking out only three times.

“I always count on her to get us started off as a leadoff batter, and making all the plays at shortstop,” Telegdy said. “It’s great to have a player like that.”

It’s hard to imagine Resnik improving on those numbers this season, but she’s certainly going to try. So far, she’s batting .556 with a triple, 2 home runs, 7 RBIs and 6 runs scored while boasting an absurd OPS of 2.111 and playing her trademark gold-glove defense.

Resnik has come up with plenty of clutch hits in key moments, but none bigger than her go-ahead three-run home run off Avonworth ace Alivia Lantzy in a 6-4 win March 23 at the KSA Classic in Orlando.

“Especially since we were down and then came right back, it shows that we can always come back no matter what the score is,” Resnik said.

The 2023 PUP Rookie of the Year, Elizabeth Forward shortstop Julia Resnik is picking up right where she left off as one of the top all-around players in the area. (Alexandra Wimley/PIttsburgh Union Progress)

Like Resnik, sophomore center fielder Hannah Evans is a rising star coming off a breakout debut season, batting .556 with a team-leading nine RBIs in only three games. Junior catcher Alivia Grimm is another household name behind the plate, and senior outfielder Carlee Soukup is an experienced veteran with a knack for getting on base. Junior Julia Johnson, sophomores Aubri Cimba and Addy Nigut and freshman Berlyn Holibaugh round out the rest of the starting lineup, which might be the most potent in the area from top to bottom.

“Resnik came through big time in that game [against Avonworth], and Evans did as well,” Rutherford said. “I think that’s to be expected after what they did last year.”

Elizabeth Forward (3-0, 1-0) returned home from its Florida trip with a pair of wins in its back pocket, starting its season with a 12-2 triumph against Spruce Creek, Fla., on March 21, before the come-from-behind win over the two-time defending WPIAL Class 3A champion Antelopes. The Warriors then started section play with a 15-0 blowout against Laurel Highlands on March 28 before a rough patch of weather and a string of postponements brought their momentum to a halt.

Although Rutherford won’t allow his players to look too far ahead, they each know that this is their best chance yet to return to the mountaintop in Class 4A — and with this being Telegdy’s last chance for a title, they’re determined to send her out on top.

“Shelby is one of my best friends, so this year I’m going to work my hardest and try my hardest for it to be our year,” Resnik said.

Elizabeth Forward’s Carlee Soukup is a senior leader with plenty of big-game experience for the Warriors to draw upon. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Union Progress).

Trojanettes in midst of major turnaround

North Catholic is traditionally known as more of a basketball school, but the Trojanettes are finally proving they can play some softball, too.

Coming off a winless season that saw North Catholic score only 13 runs in 12 games with 202 runs allowed, the red-hot Trojanettes are easily one of the biggest early surprises in the area so far this spring. Fresh off a 10-9 win in its section opener on March 27 against 2023 WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A runner-up Montour, North Catholic (4-0, 1-0) remains unbeaten while outscoring foes by a combined score of 53-10.

The Trojanettes have now scored double-digit runs in each of their first four games while allowing one run or less in three out of four contests to start the season, including a pair of shutouts against Leechburg and Oakland Catholic.

Scorching-hot Scotties

There are several teams off to fast starts in 2024, but nobody has been as flawless as Southmoreland so far this season.

Through their first five games, the Scotties are 5-0 with five shutouts, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 52-0 while producing double-digit runs in four out of five games on the year. Unlike North Catholic, though, this early-season surge by Southmoreland is no shocker to anybody who has seen these Scotties play in recent years.

After finishing as the WPIAL runner-up in Class 3A, Southmoreland brought back a boatload of talent from last year’s lineup, led by senior shortstop Amarah McCutcheon and junior pitcher Maddie Brown. McCutcheon is batting .462 with a double, three home runs and 10 RBIs so far this season, while Brown is hitting .625 with a double, a homer and six RBIs. In the circle, Brown is 5-0 with an 0.00 ERA and 0.64 WHIP, tallying 31 strikeouts to three walks in 22 innings pitched.

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.