Panthers softball team shows hunger in win over Fair Haven

By BEN HOOKE

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 06-09-2024 5:00 PM

THETFORD — One game away from a return trip to the VPA Division III softball state championship game, are the Thetford Panthers feeling pressure?

No, says Thetford coach Michelle Morgan: “Just hungry for more.”

The young Panthers showed that hunger impressively on Friday, overcoming a few early errors to roll past sixth-seeded Fair Haven, 11-5, to advance to the Division III semifinals.

It was a poor start for third-ranked Thetford, with Fair Haven taking advantage of three first-inning errors, including two on the same play, to grab an early 3-0 advantage before Thetford could even swing a bat.

“These girls just stay focused. … We tell them to move on to the next play, don’t let it get to you,” said Morgan.

Sure enough, Thetford tightened up defensively, not producing an error the rest of the afternoon while the bats came alive at the plate.

After pulling a run back in the second inning, the Panthers erupted in the bottom of the third, ripping off five runs to take a lead they’d never relinquish.

From there, it was a consistent offensive effort down the stretch from Thetford, with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings before a three-run burst that truly closed the door in the bottom of the sixth.

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Thetford, a small team with big experience, sits on the cusp of a repeat trip to the state finals.

The Panthers broke through to reach last year’s title game — dropping a 9-0 decision to three-time champion Oxbow — and after losing two senior starters, they have brought an all-underclassmen lineup back to the semifinals.

“We had some replacing to do, and I think we’ve had a lot of players who had to adjust to new positions, but we’ve handled it well,” said Morgan.

Part of the team’s reload has come from the partnership with nearby Rivendell Academy. The Raptors, with not enough players to field a full team, have sent four players to Thetford, three of whom — junior catcher Eiea Morgan, sophomore infielder Lyza Taylor and freshman infielder Autumn Powers — have been instant-impact starters.

“I think the kids have gotten along great. A lot of them have played together since middle school, and they’re friends even off the team,” said Morgan.

Thetford travels to second-seeded Bellows Falls on Tuesday for a semifinal matchup. The Panthers and Terriers did not meet in the regular season.