Windham ace Dani Tardiff and her fellow defenders gave up just one hit as they steamrolled to a 9-0 win over visiting South Portland in the first round of the postseason on Wednesday, June 8. The following day, the No. 5 Eagles traveled to No. 4 Thornton and pulled off an impressive 6-5 upset.

No. 12 South Portland at No. 5 Windham

The South Portland result is a complete reversal of the previous day’s matchup between the two teams, their first attempt to determine who would advance to the quarters. In that game, the Riots quickly jumped to a commanding lead; had the opponents played seven full innings,  South Portland likely would’ve downed Windham. Alas, Mother Nature intervened: Rain and thunder forced a halt to play and, per MPA rules, the contest began anew the following day.

“Mother Nature gave us a mulligan on Tuesday,” said Windham head coach Travis Demmons. “We were the favorites, but the girls did not execute and lacked a sense of urgency. Combining those two factors with the fact that our Second-Team All-Conference pitcher, Danielle Tardiff, was unable to go put us at a distinct disadvantage. SoPo was very opportunistic in the first game and Aceto was, as usual, pounding the strike zone and their defense was executing.”

Windham made the most of the mulligan. Whereas Tardiff hadn’t pitched on Tuesday, she took to the circle in the teams’ second go-round and whiffed 12 Riots. Tardiff also walked Miranda Gleason, Meghan Livingston and Araiana Ruotolo, but the Riots couldn’t capitalize on those momentary advantages. 

“We’re simply a different team when Dani is in the circle,” Demmons said. “The team carries themselves much more confidently, and they play better defense. Of course it helps when our ace throws one hit ball with 12 strikeouts. The confidence the team has when Dani is in the circle also translates to our offense, too – girls aren’t trying to do too much … they are just focused on doing their job and stringing hits together. It’s contagious with this team … they really feed off each other’s success.”

South Portland starting pitcher Stephanie Aceto threw six Ks against the Eagles, and only walked one, but they otherwise got the better of her. Windham added two in the first, three more in the third, and two each in the fourth and fifth to build to the 9-0 final, which included two homeruns.

When the Eagles faced South Portland in the regular season, back on April 27, Windham likewise took the W 7-0.

“I absolutely feel the Tuesday cancellation woke up the girls,” said Demmons. “We’ve, at times, lacked a sense of urgency recently, and they’ve come to realize that it truly is ‘win or go home’ time. We need to battle each and every at bat … each and every inning. All championship teams need some luck to go along with great skill … we consider the weather on Tuesday our slice of luck.”

No. 5 Windham at No. 4 Thornton

Windham’s skill, and their slice of luck, propelled them into Thursday the 9th’s quarterfinals, where they managed to best TA, to whom they’d dropped a narrow, 2-1 game late in the regular season.

“TA really controlled the game until the last few innings,” Demmons said. “We weren’t getting timely hits and they got a couple timely hits to take the lead … then they tacked on a few more to give them a pretty nice cushion. They were clearly feeling good about themselves.”

Thornton posted two runs in the second and three more in the fourth to amass a comfortable, 5-0 advantage over their visitors.

“TA did exactly what we expected of them,” said Demmons. “They played some small-ball, squared some balls up, played sound defense and (Louisa) Colucci consistently climbed the ladder on our batters. TA’s a very good team that continued to get better as the season progressed, and I envision they’ll continue to be a force in softball going forward.”

But the Eagles were not to be denied that day, and assembled an impressive comeback to secure their triumph over the Trojans. Demmons described the critical, sixth-inning play on which his girls seized the momentum: 

“The turning point of the game was a foul pop-up that the TA third basemen dove for and caught. We had runners on second and third at the time, and I told the runner at third, Sadie Nelson, to push the envelope on a fly ball and tag up. The ball was close to the TA dugout, but when the third basemen first touched the ball, Sadie was off. The third basemen threw the ball past the catcher on a hop, which allowed our runner at second, Lauren Talbot, to come around and score our second run.”

“We needed to push the envelope with our aggressiveness,” Demmons said, “and that sequence got us back into the game – emotionally and on the scoreboard.”

Still down 5-2 heading into the top of the seventh, the Eagles needed to up the ante once again if they hoped to emerge the victors.

“In the seventh,” said Demmons, “we continued that aggressiveness and strung together hit after hit, culminating with one of our captains, Christina Mooradian, driving in another captain, Sadie, for what would prove to be the winning run! It was a true team victory and pretty fitting ending when the final ground-ball-out ended up in the glove of our workhorse, bulldog pitcher (Tardiff).”

Katelyn Troiano, Taylor Tibbetts and Olivia Mora also notched runs in the game. Tibbetts and Nelson picked up two hits apiece, and Troiano, Mooradian, Mora, Talbot, Alex Morang and Megan Joy each added one. Mooradian’s contact tallied three RBIs, while Tibbets’s, Nelson’s and Talbot’s tallied one each.

Alas, the Eagles’ next opponent, their semifinals opponent, was mighty Scarborough, to whom Windham had fallen at the tail end of the regular season, 2-0. The result of the teams’ second bout was exactly the same, in fact, and Windham retired for the year at 13-6.

Windham ace Danielle Tardiff hurls a ball toward home against the Riots.

The Eagles’ Sadie Nelson takes a cut at the plate versus South Portland.

Windhamite Erin Elder jumps off third headed for home against South Portland on June 8.

South Portland pitcher Stephanie Aceto hurls a ball toward home in the Riots’ prelims loss at windham on June 8.

South Portland second-baseman Maeve Kelley unwinds into a 4-3 throw against Windham last Wednesdsay, June 8.

Windhamite Taylor Tibbets picks up a ground ball for a 4-3 throw-out versus visiting South Portland on June 8.

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