WATERVILLE — Waterville Senior High School assistant baseball coach Chris Farrar is either a hardball prophet or a lucky guesser. In the top of the sixth inning, Farrar watched Gardiner put runners on second and third base with one out, turned to head coach Don Sawyer and said the Purple Panthers needed a double play.

Two pitches later, Farrar got his wish. Logan Peacock hit a sharp line drive right at Waterville third baseman Dan Pooler, who was playing approximately 5 feet off the bag. Pooler made the catch, took one step to his right, dove, and then tagged Devon Maschino to complete the double play, which ended the inning and killed the Tigers’ best chance for a big inning.

“I noticed the kid had a big jump before the pitch, so I looked over and I just went after him. I laid all out for it,” Pooler said.

In playoff games, plays like that are often the difference, and Waterville took the 3-2 win in the Eastern Class B preliminary round. No. 7 Waterville, now 13-4, will play at No. 2 Oceanside at 3 p.m., Thursday in the quarterfinals. No. 10 Gardiner finishes 11-6.

“Danny’s been making plays like that all year. It’s unheralded how good that kid’s been defensively,” Sawyer said.

Pooler’s play was just one of a handful of defensive gems made by the Panthers in support of pitcher Dalton Wood, who threw a complete game. In the first inning, shortstop A.J. Godin made a leaping catch on a Peacock line drive, and in the seventh, first baseman Ben Cox made a nice play on a spinning ground ball.

“They did a really good job behind (Wood) today. Especially Pooler at third base. He made that huge play in the sixth. That really squashes the momentum. We probably win the game if he doesn’t make that play,” Gardiner coach Russell Beckwith said.

For five innings, Wood was almost unhittable. The junior righty faced the minimum 15 batters through five innings, allowing just Brad Weston to reach on a squibbed infield single in the second inning. Wood then promptly picked Weston off.

“Everything was working today. I was hitting my spots. Good defense was behind me, very reliable,” Wood, who struck out two and walked one, said. “My curveball was really working today. I was very lucky to throw a nice curve today.”

Added Sawyer: “He’s had a couple of light outings here recently. He’s been working on his control and locations of his pitches, and today he was ready to go. He was determined to throw the ball over the strike zone and his curveball was working all day long for him. That was his go-to pitch today.”

Waterville scored twice to take the lead in the third inning. Wood led off with a walk and Corey Huerfano followed with a single. Chay Phelps was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Andrew Rodrigue’s sacrifice fly to left field scored a run. Cody Pellerin’s RBI single gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

Pooler’s sacrifice fly to right field in the fifth inning gave Waterville a 3-0 lead.

Gardiner threw Nic Berube the first three innings, with Josh McKelvey throwing three innings in relief. The Tigers hoped to use a few pitchers, keeping everyone available for potential games later in the week.

“Looking ahead and trying to keep arms fresh, it’s a busy week if you get to play on. With Nic hitting that struggle in the third inning, it was the right decision to make at that point, and Josh kept us in the game,” Beckwith said.

When Wood tired a little in the later innings, Gardiner finally had offensive chances. Eli Fish’s RBI single in the sixth inning scored Ryan Kelley to cut Waterville’s lead to 3-1. In the seventh, Berube scored on Hunter Chasse’s sacrifice fly to right, before Wood ended the game by getting a ground ball to shortstop.

Huerfano had two hits for Waterville.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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