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Harwood softball finishes as state runner-up

06/19/2008

The Harwood Union High School softball team earned a berth in the state finals on June 11 by dispatching the Bellows Falls Terriers, 4-2. 

Harwood hosted the semi-final game in Waterbury. The Lady Highlanders were looking to cap their fine playoff run with their first trip to the finals since 2001.
 
In the second inning, Harwood's senior first baseman Sam Sandretto flexed her muscles by smashing a solo home run to lead things off. Junior Ashley Sweet bunted and was safe at first on a throwing error. She scored on junior Kim Martin's single to right field. The Lady Highlanders picked up two more runs in the fifth inning, as junior Mariah Liberty singled to left and junior Randi Lowe walked.  Freshman Hannah Lovely then nearly tore the hide off the ball with a double down the left field line, scoring Liberty and Lowe.
 
Sweet pitched a complete game three hitter and added a double late in the game.  Liberty and Lovely both finished with two hits apiece.  
 
Harwood did not have much time to celebrate their victory, as the state final was Friday, June 13. Harwood was seeking their first softball title since 1980. All that stood in their way was Lyndon Institute. Lyndon was heading into their fifth straight title game, winning the last three and currently riding a 72-game winning streak. Lyndon had already tallied two wins against Harwood in the regular season as well.  
 
The Lady Highlanders tossed all the streaks and records out the door, as they knew they could complete with their perennial counterparts. Harwood had been playing to the following philosophy: "Three games in June, and we will take our chances in the finals."  

It was the slogan the Lady Highlanders were focused on for the last two weeks of the season. As the school bus hit the exit for Poultney, the players gathered in the middle and began their usual pre-game chants and cheers. They finished their vocal efforts with a head turning rendition of "We are . . . Harwood, We are . . . Harwood, We are . . . Harwood" as the bus came to a stop in the parking lot next to the playing field.
 
As expected the game was a classic. The first four frames were scoreless as both pitchers locked horns and held each other's teams at bay. Harwood tallied first in the top of the fifth inning. With two outs, sophomore Sarah Danaher stroked a hard single to left and when the fielder miss-played the ball, Danaher scampered to third. Mariah Liberty followed with a hard hit ball up the middle. The Lyndon shortstop threw it away and Liberty was safe as Danaher dashed home. Randi Lowe then poked a ball into left for a single. Lyndon then induced a ground out to close the inning.
 
Lyndon opened the bottom of the inning with a triple to the fence in left and scored their runner on a bunt.
 
Harwood's Ashley Sweet opened the top of the seventh with a double down the left field line. She moved to third on a ground out but was unable to score as Lyndon ended the threat with a pair of pop-ups.
 
The game went into extra innings as Harwood was not going to let Lyndon win it in regulation. After the scoreless seventh, eighth and top of the ninth, Lyndon came to bat. Their leadoff batter coaxed a walk out of the home plate umpire and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. The runner took third on a wild pitch. During a timeout, Harwood drew the infield and outfield in close and Lyndon changed their attack to the suicide squeeze.
 
Sweet then threw a pitch in on the hands of the batter, which was bunted to the first base side of the field. Lyndon's runner was sprinting on the pitch and slid just under Sweet's toss to the plate for the winning run.  
 
Lyndon's 2-1 victory gave them their 4th straight title and their 73rd straight win. It did not go unnoticed to anyone, how close the game really was. Harwood made it very clear that they belonged in the finals. Harwood graduates only two seniors: second baseman Becca Roy and first baseman Sam Sandretto.  
 
With knowledge of this, Lyndon and the rest of Division 2 should be nervous about the Lady Highlanders as they plan to return to that small town in southern Vermont with their chant: We are . . . Harwood, We are . . . Harwood, We are . . . Harwood!!
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