By Ruthie Laroche
For the County Courier
SWANTON: The Thunderbirds will be hosting a semi-final game, thanks to the grit and determination the team displayed on Friday night.
MVU, seeded second, hosted ten seed, Rutland, narrowly escaping an upset. The Thunderbirds, who took only one loss during the regular season, proved that they have what it takes to earn a win in a close game.
“They made us work really hard, and they gave us an opportunity to have one of those games where we get a chance to measure ourselves and see if we are worthy of moving on,” said MVU head coach Jay Hartman. “Fortunately, we were able to do that in the bottom half of the seventh inning.”
The two teams exchanged the lead multiple times during the game; Sarah Harvey recounted Hartman’s words of wisdom as the Thunderbirds pushed through the tough contest.
“He told us that if we wanted to keep playing, we had to win every inning,” noted Sarah, who was named the Vermont Gatorade Player of the Year this week.
Heading into the bottom of the seventh, the teams were knotted at seven runs apiece.
MVU was down to their last out when a close call at first gave MVU new life. Madison Conley hit a single and outran the throw to first.
“Madison is an amazing kid. We watched her during the hockey championship this year; she’s gutsy, she’s gritty, she finds a way to get it done,” said Hartman of his sophomore catcher.
“Natalee delivered with a hit in the gap in left, advancing Conley and putting the T-Birds in scoring position. Ellie Bourdeau came to the plate for MVU, hitting a ball toward third. A bad hop sent the ball into the outfield, allowing Conley to score on the walk-off.”
“It was textbook, exactly what you’d hope for,” said Sarah Harvey.
Both Harvey sisters threw for MVU with Sarah earning the win. Sarah tossed the final three innings, combining with starter Natalee for 12 strikeouts.
This year the two sisters are playing their final season together.
“They’re two different players,” said Shannon Harvey of her daughters. “They have equally, incredible strength and I love how they love each other. Natalee has said a couple of times that she hates that this season is going to end.”
Thankfully, the Thunderbirds will play another game.
“I was impressed with the way the team kept battling back. Rutland played extremely well. They sacrificed and bunted people into scoring position, and they had three big hits,” said Hartman.
Rutland had two, two-out hits that scored two runs in both the fourth and the sixth innings, and a home run in the top of the seventh that scored two more.
Hartman noted that one of the strengths he’s seen in this years’ team comes in their flexibility, which was on display on Friday.
“Henry Ford has nothing on interchangeable parts when it comes to us,” said Hartman. “We have fourteen girls on the team this year, so everyone has needed to learn multiple positions. The kids know that if we decide to do certain things, it’s going to move people around, and they’ve become very comfortable and very adept at it.”
Bill Sheets, the pitching coach for MVU, also complimented the team.
“They’ve really gelled, and we have a lot of leadership throughout the team.”
Hartman, who has over three decades of experience at the helm, enjoys the post season.
“This a fun group, and we’re not ready for the season to end yet,” said Hartman. “This was a gutsy win, and hopefully, it’s something we can build on and move forward.”
The Thunderbirds will face Lyndon Institute at home on Tuesday at 4:30 pm.