WINDHAM — This time of year, the outcome of any game can cause a domino effect in the Heal point standings. And that’s especially true when two contending teams meet.

So the players and coaches for the softball teams at fifth-ranked Noble High and fourth-ranked Windham High knew exactly what was at stake – a likely preliminary-round bye – when they played Wednesday.

But the host Eagles, who were coming off a one-run loss Tuesday, had other incentives.

“We really needed to win this game for playoffs, first of all, so we all prepped for that,” said senior pitcher Dani Tardiff. “But we also wanted it because, in my four years, we’ve never beaten Noble. And this was our senior game. So it was a goal for everyone, to win it for the seniors.”

And Windham did just that. Senior first baseman Olivia Mora got things going with a two-run home run in the first inning and the Eagles held off a late Noble charge to win 7-6 and clinch a spot in the top four in Class A South. That means Windham will get a bye in the preliminary round.

“That’s huge for us,” said Travis Demmons, the coach at Windham. “We want to be able to go watch a game.”

“That was definitely in the forefront of our minds,” said Mora, who was walked in her next three at-bats. “We had to win this.”

Windham jumped on Raegan Kelly, Noble’s talented freshman pitcher, for three runs in the first and two unearned runs in the second to take a 5-0 lead the Knights couldn’t overcome. Noble got a two-out, two-strike, two-run home run from Marisa Cipolla in the top of the seventh but Tardiff got the final out on a fly to right.

“We didn’t quit, that’s for sure,” said Rick Melanson, Noble’s head coach. “We definitely didn’t play our best game of the year, unfortunately.”

Noble committed three errors, all in the first two innings, to help Windham jump out to its lead.

Lauren Talbot led off the bottom of the first with a triple into right field and, after a walk to Alex Morang, scored on a throwing error as Morang stole second. Mora then drilled a high drive over the center-field fence for a two-run home run – and her 100th career hit – to give the Eagles a quick 3-0 lead. It was her 12th career home run, one shy of the school record, and according to Tardiff, got the Eagles going.

“I think it helps a lot because it gives us a ton of energy that sometimes it’s hard for us to get,” said Tardiff. “It motivates everyone to do the best they can and helps us play cleaner.”

The Eagles got two unearned runs in the second to make it 5-0. Noble cut it to 5-2 in the third, with Mackenzie Aleva getting an RBI single, but Windham got a run back in the fourth on an RBI double by Chloe Wilcox.

Noble got two in the fifth on a two-run bloop single to center by Kelly. But again Windham came back with a run in the bottom of the sixth, Morang scoring from third as Wilcox got in a rundown between first and second.

“We just couldn’t shut them down,” said Melanson.

And now the Knights are faced with playing a preliminary-round game at home next Tuesday.

“Hopefully we can regroup,” said Melanson, “and get right back in it.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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