SWANTON — The Lady T-birds season hung in the balance on Friday evening as Rhianna Sweeney stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth with the winning run 60 feet away.
Natalee Harvey had worked eight innings, striking out 16, allowing 2 hits, and walking only one, and St. Johnsbury had held MVU to less than a handful of hits.
Sweeney launched a missile of a line-drive down the third-base side, easily plating the winning run, a roar erupting from the sidelines and the dugout.
"I knew I needed to get a hit, and I made it happen. I was so nervous!" said Sweeney.
Sweeney and Harvey, both seniors on the MVU squad, have been a pitcher/catcher duo since elementary school.
"She's been my catcher since 9/10's; she's my partner in crime. I have 100 percent confidence in her always. I'm so proud of you!" said Harvey to Sweeney.
"Nat's always been my best buddy, and I love catching for her. Back in Little League, she caught for me! It's crazy how well we know each other," said Sweeney.
MVU hosted the St. Johnsbury Hilltoppers in the D1 quarterfinal, and the Pit was bustling with people.
Natalee Harvey earned 3 strikeouts in the top of the first and in the second. In the bottom of the second Molly Gagne reached base with a double. Emily Graham made it to first on a two-out single in the third, and Harvey hit a double in the fourth, but the T-birds couldn't plate a run.
After striking out three in the top of the fifth, the Thunderbirds went to bat again. Maddie Conley singled to start off the fifth, and Riley Fadden-Duprey's sac bunt advanced Conley to second, but they were unable to plate the run once again.
In the top of the seventh, St. Johnsbury broke through with a hit to right field, but Sweeney's throw to short caught the runner stealing, and the Hilltoppers left the inning scoreless.
Abigail Paquette reached base in the sixth, and Conley singled, but once again, nothing.
Enter the bottom of the eighth; Maddie Guyette reached on a catcher's interference call, Emily Graham beat out a bunt, and Sweeney came up big, plating Guyette for the 1-0 walk-off win.
"I'm really pleased with the way we performed tonight. We haven't had a game like that all season. Natalee was tough from the beginning," said MVU coach Jay Hartman.
"We were finally able to get runners in scoring position with the meat of the order up. Rhianna was right in the center of that first pitch, and now we're moving on.
"The second season, you get one chance every day, and if you do the job and find a way to take advantage of that opportunity or two, then you get to live another day."
The Thunderbirds will face in-county rival BFA St. Albans at Collins Perley next Tuesday at 4:30.