GARDINER — As the Gardiner Area High School softball team exited its dugout after a 3-2 loss to Erskine on Tuesday, a sign remained affixed to the chain link fence.

“We love our senior,” it said, a telling reminder of just how young the Tigers are this season.

That senior, Bri Brochu, did what she could to will her team to a victory Tuesday, going 4 for 4 with four stolen bases and a run scored out of the leadoff spot. Too many errors and missed opportunities — of which, to Erskine’s credit, it took advantage — cost Gardiner (8-8 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B) in the end, though.

All three of the runs given up by Tigers starting pitcher Jill Bisson, a freshman, were unearned and the home team stranded eight runners in scoring position throughout the course of the contest.

“(The) execution wasn’t there,” Gardiner coach Don Brochu said. “…(They’re still) learning the game. They’re not varsity speed yet. It’s getting that little jump on close fly balls, that little stuff that kind of makes me turn gray.”

Even still, Gardiner nearly pulled off a seventh-inning rally.

A throwing error following a ground ball to short allowed Meg Meehan to reach first and advance to second when the ball went out of play to open the inning. She advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mallory Bailey and scored on Brochu’s fourth hit of the day, a single to shallow left field.

Brochu promptly stole second and scored on a double to left by Logan Granholm on the seventh pitch of the at-bat from Erskine pitcher Kayla Hodgkins. On the play, though, Granholm rounded second a bit too far and was thrown out while trying to scramble back to the bag.

Julia Nadeau kept the inning alive with an infield single, but Hodgkins bounced back and induced a pop out to first in foul territory to end the game.

“We’re in the playoffs either way, but I think momentum-wise this is really critical for us,” Erskine coach Holly Tripp said. “We dropped this game at our place (3-2) halfway through the season and that was one we really wanted back big time.

“We didn’t give up and in the end they had a great push. I think we did a good job of staying calm and that’s what we need, we need to be pushed right before the playoffs.”

Hodkins, also a freshman, gave up just the one earned run on nine hits, two walks, one hit batter and six strikeouts. She threw 72 of her 107 pitches for strikes and, most importantly, kept her composure when the Tigers threatened late.

“I ignored a lot of the noise and that really helped out a lot,” Hodgkins said, “but not to stress out is the main part.”

It was strong pitching from both Hodkins and Bisson — who gave up zero earned runs on seven hits, three walks and seven strikeouts while throwing 70 of her 111 pitches for strikes — that kept each team off the scoreboard through the first four innings.

The Eagles (9-7 KVAC B) finally broke through in the top of the fifth beginning with a two-out single from Mallory Chamberlain. Taylor McLaggan followed with a ground ball to short, but the ensuing throw bounced off the glove of Gardiner’s first baseman to give Erskine runners on second and third.

Chamberlain scored five pitches later on a passed ball and — following a walk to Hodgkins — McLaggan scored on a single to right by Harley Denning to make it 2-0. Gardiner escaped the inning without any further damage, but Erskine tacked on a much-needed insurance run in the top of the seventh to make it 3-0 when Amber Grady scored from third on a throwing error with runners at the corners on a failed first-and-third play.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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