NEWPORT — The season’s early, but Jared Foster and the Nokomis baseball team wouldn’t mind the weeks to come looking like the two that have been played so far.

Zach Hartsgrove drove in three runs, including the winner, and the Warriors broke a tie with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning en route to a 5-3 victory over Gardiner in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B matchup.

“The kids are starting to hit the ball,” said Foster, whose team improved to 4-0 and has outscored the opposition 32-6. “Last game, lots of solid line drives, and today they were just hitting it on a line, which is what we want. They’re coming up with big hits when they need to. … Kids are just doing everything I ask. That’s what makes good teams.”

Foster’s bunch is showing signs of being a mentally tough team, too. Four days after scoring twice in the sixth inning to rally for a 2-1 victory over Maranacook, the Warriors again were ready with the game on the line.

“We strive for confidence,” Hartsgrove said. “We pick each other up, when somebody goes down striking out, we’re always picking them up. … I’ve played together with these guys for a long time, and it’s our time.”

This time, Nokomis watched Gardiner (1-3) chip away at a 3-1 deficit with runs in the third and fifth before rallying in the bottom half. Josh Smestad led off with a hard grounder to third and went to second when the throw to first skipped by the bag. Josh Perry bunted him to third, and Hartsgrove drilled a single to left, his second hit of the game, to score Smestad and put Nokomis ahead 4-3.

“My goal was just to put the ball in play,” Hartsgrove said. “I knew we could bring that runner in with our lineup.”

Hartsgrove put himself in scoring position on the next at-bat, running on the pitch and heading to third on Brad Allen’s grounder to first. That brought up Matt Dyer with two outs, and the left fielder stroked a single to right that scored Hartsgrove for the final run.

“I felt pretty good that last inning, even if they came (back) to tie it up,” Foster said. “We were back at the top of the order again, and that’s always a good feeling. You’re a bit relaxed.”

Gardiner struck first when Ryan Kelley’s single brought in Isaiah Magee in the first inning, but Nokomis rallied in the bottom half after Smestad beat out an infield single and Perry walked. Both moved up, Smestad on a ball in the dirt and stolen base and then Perry on a catcher’s indifference, and Hartsgrove lined a single to left to bring in both for a 2-1 lead.

“Zach’s a stud,” said Foster, whose team bumped its lead to 3-1 in the third on Gabe Gilley’s two-out single in the second. “For some reason guys are getting on base for him, he’s up at the right time and, sure enough, he does what he does.”

The deficit was only part of the problem for Gardiner, which lost third baseman Chandler Moran to a shoulder injury while trying to tag out Smestad on his steal in the first, and then starting pitcher Sam Jermyn when he was hit in his right — and throwing — hand on a comebacker in the third. The Tigers fought back, however, with Kelley driving in Devon Maschino with a single to center in the top of the third to narrow the deficit to 3-2. Kelley was at the center of the Tigers’ fifth-inning push to tie the game as well, hitting a hard grounder to third that wasn’t handled cleanly and went for an error with two outs, allowing Cole Lawrence to scamper home.

“You go in with a game plan in all the games, but in high school baseball it happens quite a bit,” coach Russ Beckwith said about the team having to adjust to the mid-game personnel changes. “I think this group, we’re pretty equipped to handle that situation. It was nice to see some of those young guys that got moved around stick through it, play and have some great at-bats.”

Gardiner threatened a final time after Nokomis took the lead again, with Logan Porter and Alic Shorey leading off the sixth with singles, but Warriors pitcher Alex Baird navigated through the jam and then set the Tigers down in order in the seventh.

“(The rallies) let us know that we’re in it, we’re competitive and we’re a competitive team,” said Beckwith, whose team has suffered its three losses by a total of five runs. “It’s just one of those frustrating things, a ‘when’s-the-ball-going-to-bounce-our-way’ kind of thing.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM