LYNNFIELD — The Ipswich High softball team came ever so close to pulling off the upset.
Ultimately, host Lynnfield scored four times in the bottom of the seventh and final inning to prevail, 12-11, in this Division 3 North quarterfinal playoff contest.
"The first time we played them we lost by 12, and the game wasn't even that close," said Mark Veilleux, who came out of retirement to take over the Tigers' program this season. "We had this one, but it got away. I wish them the best going forward; that's a good team."
The Pioneers (14-7) came in as the 13th seed while Ipswich was the 21st out of 22 teams that made the Division 3 North tourney.
Lynnfield scored three runs in both the first and second innings. But Ipswich (11-10), which had won its two previous postseason games, never gave up, sending 12 batters to the plate in the third to take an 8-6 lead.
Erika Noftall started in the circle for Ipswich before giving way to her sister Katherine in the second inning. The senior shortstop switched places with her younger sister with nobody out and the bases loaded. The first two hitters she faced hit ground balls that resulted in outs at the plate, and then she bore down to get out of the jam with a punch out.
"I think that's only Katherine's third time on the mound," said Veilleux. "She's a tough, hard-nosed kid who plays the game the right way. She's going to Bentley (University) to continue playing, and I know she'll do well."
In the top of the third, the Tigers' Lexi James walked and Erika Noftall, Mya Cuevas and Katherine Noftall all delivered singles. With one out Cassidy Smith walked to load the bases, and Maddy Bowen's single drove in one run while another scored on a successful delayed double steal. Alexa Eliopoulos kept the rally going, James singled up the middle, and the younger Noftall doubled to plate two more.
Strong relief by Katherine Noftall held the Pioneers to a run in the bottom of the third and an unearned tally in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Tigers tacked on two runs in the fourth when Katherine Noftall doubled and later scored on a hit by Rowan Galanis. Another came home on a fielder's choice by Eliopoulos to give her team a 10-7 cushion.
Katherine Noftall picked up her second RBI in the fifth inning, driving in her sister with a sacrifice fly. Erika Noftall was on base all five times she was up with four hits and a walk.
The Tigers had runners on base in every inning but the sixth.
Lynnfield won the game in the bottom of the sixth, capitalizing on two errors and timely hits by Chloe Shapleigh to drive in a run and a two-run single by Jill Babine..
Cuevas, Katherine Noftall and Galanis all had two hits for the Tigers while Brandie Melanson, Smith, Maddy Bowen, and James all hit safely.