Lawrence (4-7) is hanging on to a playoff spot in Class A North, but with just five games to play in the regular season it may have to make a late push without one of its top pitchers.

Junior Braden Ballard hasn’t pitched since leaving the mound with elbow soreness against Mt. Ararat on May 4. Lawrence coach Rusty Mercier said the team will know more about Ballard’s chances to get back on the mound when tests come back next week.

“He took some at bats (Wednesday),” Mercier said of Ballard. “He seems to be feeling much better.”

Among those taking on an increased pitching workload are Riley Parlin, Jared Dodge and Nick Robinson, Mercier said.

“It has put unwanted pressure on our (pitching) staff,” Mercier said.

Lawrence’s remaining five games are against Camden Hills (4-5 entering Thursday), Brewer (10-2), Brunswick (0-9), Skowhegan (2-9) and Hampden (8-3). A few victories will solidify the Bulldogs’ playoff standing.

“If we defend a little better and play complete games, we can make the playoffs,” Mercier said.

• • •

Messalonskee, like Lawrence, is also fighting for a playoff spot in Class A North. The Eagles dropped to 3-7 with a loss to Hampden on Wednesday, but still hold the 10th and final playoff spot in the Heal point standings. The Eagles hold a nine-point lead over Mt. Blue for that final playoff position, and know a win over the Cougars on Friday would greatly improve their chances.

“I feel like we control our own destiny for that playoff spot. The teams we play are right there with us. We’ve got Cony twice, we’ve got Mt. Blue,” Messalonskee coach Ray Bernier said. “If we can win the games we’ve got to win, I think we can get in there. I’ve been around this team and this group enough, you get in the playoffs it doesn’t matter what seed you are. You can get all the way to the end with a low seed.”

The Eagles also have tough games left against three-time defending state champion Bangor, Brunswick and Camden Hills. Messalonskee is a young team — its starting lineup against Hampden featured three freshmen and a sophomore.

“They’re getting a lot of good experience,” Bernier said.

• • •

Rangeley has an odd doubleheader Tuesday. The Lakers are set to travel to Bingham for a pair of games, one against Highview Christian and one against host Valley. The Highview Christian game was originally scheduled for Wednesday at Thomas College, a location approximately halfway between the two schools. When Thomas was unavailable, Highview agreed to travel to Bingham and play the Lakers before Rangeley’s game against the Cavaliers.

“In (Class) D sports in general, you travel,” Rangeley coach Jeff LaRochelle said.

The Lakers are 4-3 heading into Friday’s big game against Buckfield. On Tuesday, Buckfield took an 11-8 win over the Lakers. Rangeley made nine errors in that game, allowing five unearned Bucks runs.

“We just messed up,” LaRochelle said. “You can’t give that many outs to good teams.”

The Lakers worked on situational defense over the last few days. Rangeley’s hitting started to come around in the first Buckfield game, and LaRochelle said he was a little surprised it took this long for the bats to come alive.

“Being in the gym so much because of the snow, I did more hitting drills than ever,” LaRochelle said.

• • •

In the race for the top seed in Class B North, Nokomis and Gardiner have put a little space between themselves and the rest of the pack.

Nokomis (9-2) sits two points ahead of Gardiner (9-3), with third place Old Town (9-2) six points behind the Tigers. Remaining strength of schedule is likely going to play a big part in determining final seeding.

Nokomis’ final five opponents — Medomak Valley, Belfast, MCI, Winslow and Mount View — are a combined 13-38, and none has a winning record. Gardiner’s final four opponents are Winslow, Maranacook, Leavitt and Erskine, which are a combined 19-23 and are worth more points than Nokomis’ remaining games.

“I think our schedule could hurt us,” Nokomis coach Jared Foster acknowledged.

• • •

Around the state: Cheverus and Falmouth entered Thursday undefeated in Class A South. They will not play each other in the regular season, so keep your eye out for a possible match of undefeated teams in the regional tournament… After completing an undefeated boys basketball season, the George Stevens Academy baseball team was 8-0 entering a Thursday game against Ellsworth… It should be fun to watch the race for the top seeds in Class B South unfold over the next week and a half. Six teams — Greely, Yarmouth, Morse, Bridgeway, Spruce Mountain, and York — are within four points of each other and fighting for the top seed in the region.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM