It was a cause Gardiner Area High School baseball coach Charlie Lawrence couldn’t pass up. His players felt the same way.

The Gardiner baseball team will be taking on a charitable endeavor this season, raising money and collecting items to donate to the VA2K Health Walk and Roll, which is set up to help homeless veterans as they move into new housing.

“They’ve been homeless, so they’re walking into an empty apartment or an empty house and they have nothing, so we’re looking to be able to give them a head start,” Lawrence said. “The fact that some of the folks that helped us with our freedom are homeless and don’t have this kind of bothers us a little bit. It’s a great cause to try to help out our veterans.”

The project was started by Rebecca Pushard, a Gardiner alum who nearly filled up a bus with donations last year. Lawrence, a security specialist with the United States Air Force in the late 1980s and early 90s, heard of the project from his wife, Lisa, and said the plight of the veterans “struck a chord.”

When he pitched the idea of donating with his team, he said his players felt the same motivation.

“It kind of reached a soft spot in our hearts. We told the boys about it and they jumped on board to see what we can get for donations to try to help that cause,” he said. “One of the things I talked about with my players is we take a lot for granted. We go home, we know the home’s there. We walk through the door, we’re hungry, we open up the refrigerator. We put stuff in the microwave.”

The Tigers are looking for some of the necessities of a household — dish sets, glasses, plates, storage containers, silverware, measuring cups, bedding — but are also accepting money donations. Lawrence said the team will collect items at home games, spread the word on social media and set up a donation day later in the season.

“We’re still in the ground works. We’re getting a great response because we put it up on our Facebook page that we have for our baseball team and we put it out through social media, and we’ve had a lot of response from people who want to donate,” he said. “We’re just getting started with it.”

Lawrence said that the Tigers already have a goal in mind of filling his truck with items to give to the Togus VA Hospital for the Walk and Roll.

“I’m hoping that maybe I can borrow a big dump truck or something and fill that if it goes well,” he said.

The Tigers are hoping they don’t have to go about this alone. Lawrence said the players have been working on getting their friends, family, and even other schools to join up.

“We’d like to challenge all the local communities, all the Kennebec Valley schools to get on board with us,” he said. “We think it’d be great if some of the other schools that are local, other baseball teams and softball teams would like to join in and help us out with this cause.”

• • •

The Messalonskee softball team didn’t have to wait long to notch a memorable victory. The Eagles’ opener did the trick.

Messalonskee kicked off its season in dramatic fashion, rallying from a four-run deficit and then a late two-run hole by scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth en route to an 8-6 victory over Oxford Hills Tuesday.

“It’s a brand-new atmosphere. Coming out with a win is a great way to start off the season,” coach Samantha Moore said. “I felt pretty confident in the team the entire time to pull that win out.”

It looked bleak early, especially when the Vikings scored three in the third and two in the fourth to grab a 5-1 lead. It was a long climb back, but Moore said the team didn’t lose hope.

“We got a little quiet in the dugout, but it just takes a couple of our girls to say ‘We’ve got to keep cheering, we’ve got to stay up,’ ” Moore said. “Once that mentality took hold, those girls were up, cheering each other on, and it was just a really positive atmosphere.”

The Eagles went to work putting runs on the board. Danielle Hall’s two-run double cut the gap to 5-3 in the fourth, and Messalonskee then scored in the fifth and sixth to trim the deficit to 6-5. Sarah Labbe then smacked a go-ahead, two-run triple, part of a sixth-inning rally that gave the Eagles an 8-6 lead that they held in the seventh to finish the win.

It’s just one game, but Moore said it was an exciting way for her players to start the season.

“I think they were feeling really good about themselves,” she said. “It was really good for their confidence to come out with a win, first game out of the gate.”

• • •

After his team reached double figures in a 10-6 victory over Maranacook/Winthrop, Messalonskee boys lacrosse coach Tom Sheridan made sure to save some praise for the player in charge of keeping goals out.

Wade Carter made nine saves in the Eagles’ victory Tuesday, five of which came in a second half played while dusk fell due to a late 6 p.m. start time. Carter helped thwart a Hawks rally that saw them close the gap from 6-0 to 7-5, and even made an impressive save of a long shot with 2:38 to go in the game and Messalonskee ahead 9-6, somehow tracking the ball despite the gathering darkness.

“We had to battle through it a little bit. I think visibility was a little bit of a factor. It’s hard, somebody shoots the ball hard and you can’t see it here,” Sheridan said. “Our goalie, it’s his first year starting and he did a nice job. He made some nice saves out there.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.