GARDINER — Nothing’s come easy for the Gardiner baseball team this season.
Winless since opening day, the Tigers appeared headed for another loss Friday when they trailed Erskine by three runs entering the bottom of the seventh inning. But they rallied for three runs, overcoming a tough break in the process, and won 8-7 in the bottom of the eighth on a bases loaded single from Nic Berube.
“If we had to win a game, it’s probably now,” said Gardiner coach Chris McLaughlin, whose team is 2-8. “Realistically, if we win two or three more, we can sneak in the back door to the playoffs.”
This one was either team’s game for the taking. The Tigers led 3-0 until the Eagles (4-6) scored four in the fifth on one hit, three walks and two Gardiner errors. They took a 6-3 lead in the sixth on a pair of infield hits and two more errors from the Tigers. Gardiner didn’t fold. With an out in the bottom of the seventh, Josh Mashke laced a double to the gap in right-center. Brad Weston followed with a double to nearly the same spot and suddenly it was 6-4.
Erskine coach Mark Bailey brought in senior Jared Gartley to face pinch-hitter Brady Smith and Smith singled to right, sending Weston to third. Weston scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-5 and the Tigers thought they tied the game when Josh Farrin blooped a ball down the right-field that appeared to hit the chalk to score Smith. But after a consultation by the umpires, the ball was ruled foul and Smith was sent back to third. McLaughlin argued the overturned call to no avail.
“My point was what evidence do you have to change it,” he said. “We’ve been battling bad luck like that all year long.”
Farrin continued to battle Gartley through a 10-pitch at-bat before hitting a sacrifice fly to right field to score Smith and tie the game.
The eighth was no less exciting. Zach Childs led the Erskine half of the inning with a blooper to right and hustled in for a double. Tyler Bailey’s sacrifice bunt went to Berube, who was pitching in relief, and he cut down Childs sliding into third. Berube, who came on in the sixth to relieve starter Eli Fish, got the next two batters on ground balls to second.
Tyler Caron opened the Gardiner half of the eighth with an off-field double down the line in left after Gartley had blown two fastballs past him.
“Two strikes, I just took a deep breath and swung at it,” said Caron, who admitted he was thinking opposite field at that point.
A junior, it’s the first time he’s played since Little League.
“I like the game,” Caron said. “I missed it.”
Patrick Coughlan followed Caron’s double with a sacrifice bunt that Gartley fielded near the mound and threw high to third as Caron slid under the tag.
“I think he hesitated on the throw,” Coach Bailey said. “If we make that throw right away, we take care of it.”
Berube, who picked up the pitching victory, followed with a shot to right field to win the game.
“We’ve been working on the ball getting to the zone and not being so anxious,” McLaughlin said. “I’m glad to see our two doubles in the seventh go to right field and our game-winning hit go to right field. We work on that in practice.”