WINDHAM — Katie Hunter hesitated for only a second, then realized she had to go. Fast.

Hunter, on a delayed steal of third base, scored the winning run on a throwing error in the bottom of the sixth inning as eighth-ranked Windham High defeated No. 9 Gorham 3-2 Tuesday afternoon in a Western Class A softball preliminary-round tournament game.

The Eagles, making their first playoff appearance in eight years, combined power pitching, power hitting and heads-up base running to advance to the quarterfinals against top-ranked Scarborough on Thursday.

“They’re going to be certainly a challenge,” said Windham Coach Travis Demmons. “We’ll see what happens.”

On Tuesday, the Eagles and Rams played a tight game, unlike their regular-season encounter, a 14-8 Windham victory. The Eagles scored seven runs in the first inning of that game.

But Gorham starter Julia Gaudette was in control early on, matching Windham’s Danielle Tardiff pitch for pitch. The Rams led 1-0 into the third when Windham’s Sadie Nelson and Olivia Mora each hit home runs; Nelson’s blast going far over the left-field fence, Mora’s clearing the center-field fence.

The Rams tied it in the top of the fifth when courtesy runner Kathryn Bertin, running for Gaudette, scored from second base on a sacrifice fly to deep right by Grace McGouldrick.

Then the Eagles stepped up in the sixth against McGouldrick, who came in relief to start the fifth.

Christina Mooradian led off with her second single of the game, and Hunter pinch ran for her. Hunter stole second, but was still there with two outs. On the second pitch to Lauren Talbot, Hunter broke for third.

“My assistants and I had been talking and noticed that their third baseman was crashing hard,” said Demmons. “We figured we could sneak her in there. I knew it would take a perfect throw, a perfect play, to make the play.”

Hunter had stopped halfway between the bases, but the throw went into left field.

“I thought that there was no chance of me getting to third because the catcher had already thrown it,” said Hunter. “But I watched for her to drop it and it just passed her so I was like, ‘I’m going home.’ ”

She slid home just before the relay throw and the Eagles led 3-2. Then it was up to Tardiff to secure the win and she struck out the first two batters, getting the final out on a foul pop to Nelson, the catcher.

“She was superb,” Nelson said of Tardiff. “She hit all her spots. She pitched an amazing game.”

Demmons was pleased with the way his young team responded to the playoffs. The Eagles have only two seniors on their roster.

“The kids showed a lot of character, a lot of heart,” he said.

The victory improved Windham to 10-7 while Gorham, which also has just two seniors on its roster, finished 7-10.

“We really do have a young team,” said Rams Coach Steve Martin. “We hope to do better in the future. The kids worked hard but give Windham credit. They hit the ball well and their pitcher threw well.

“We knew coming in she was going to throw strikes and you could see the last couple of innings she got on top of us.”

The Eagles also played well defensively as Nelson picked a runner off first and shortstop Madison Elliott turned a soft line drive into a double play.

Windham had lost its final four regular-season games. Now, said Nelson, “It’s a big change and we’re really excited for Thursday just to see what happens.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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