SOUTH CHINA — The Gardiner Area High School baseball team still had the lead, but coach Charlie Lawrence wanted more. And so did his players.

Two Erskine runs in the sixth inning had trimmed the Tigers’ advantage to one, but when the Gardiner players got back to the dugout, Lawrence noticed he didn’t need to say much to reanimate his team.

“We talked about it after that big inning that they had in the sixth. ‘Hey, we need to respond right now,'” Lawrence said. “The guys did. They got in there, they were patient with the bats, got some good looks and they made things happen.”

Did they ever. Gardiner scored four runs in the top of the seventh, breaking open the game and giving stellar starter Logan Porter all the breathing room he needed to finish off a 7-2 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference victory over the Eagles, Gardiner’s second win this season over one of last spring’s Class B North finalists.

“I liked our response, the way we responded to them,” Lawrence said. “It’s kind of like getting punched in the face, and we responded back. That’s always good to see.”

Porter was excellent, allowing only three hits while striking out seven and allowing no earned runs in the complete game effort. He also scored twice for the Tigers (5-2), while Casey Bourque went 2 for 4 with three RBIs and a run and Alic Shorey went 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI.

Noah Bonsant struck out six in five innings of work for Erskine (3-3), but struggled with his command as Gardiner jumped in front. Joki Wallace doubled and Caden Turcotte and Nick Barber had singles, while Boomer Jorgensen and Chandler Moore scored for the Eagles.

“(Four) out of seven innings they got the leadoff man on base,” coach Lars Jonassen said. “You’re going to score runs in high school baseball (doing that). To me, that was the key to the game.”

FINISHING FLOURISH: For most of the game, Gardiner and Porter rolled, taking a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning. The easy afternoon was disrupted when Erskine took advantage of three Tiger errors in the sixth, with Moore scoring on a wild pitch and Jorgensen coming home on Nick Barber’s sacrifice fly.

If the Tigers were shaken, any jitters faded by the time they returned to the dugout.

“We felt like we had to get back on them. They got up on us and they got all the momentum,” Bourque said. “We had to shut them down.”

Porter began the surge by reaching on an error, and after Cole Lawrence singled, Kolton Brochu hit a deep fly to center that glanced off the center fielder’s glove. Porter scored on the play, and Lawrence and Brochu came in a batter later when Bourque rapped his second hit of the game to left to make it 6-2.

“The first pitch was a strike, so I just drove at it,” said Bourque, who eventually scored the fourth run on a passed ball. “We’ve been focusing a lot on line drives and ground balls, and it paid off because it puts a lot of pressure on their defense to make the play.”

Bourque and Lawrence singled on the first pitch, and coach Lawrence said he gave them the green light to swing away early.

“At some point, you’ve just got to get aggressive,” he said. “They said ‘We don’t want to look at the first pitch anymore coach,’ and I said ‘Go for it.’ ”

JUMPING IN FRONT: Discipline, however, played a key role as Gardiner jumped ahead in the third.

The Tigers had a hard time hitting Bonsant when he was finding the zone, but they let him help them when he couldn’t. Cam Bourassa and Porter walked to lead off the inning, and Brochu drew and eight-pitch walk two batters later to load the bases. Bourassa came in on a wild pitch to put the Tigers on the board, and Porter scored on a Bourque groundout two pitches later.

“That’s one of our main things on offense. We try to see as many pitches as we can when (the pitcher) is struggling,” said Porter, who was staked to a 3-0 lead two innings later on Alic Shorey’s RBI double. “We move guys around, play small ball, and that works really good for us.”

PORTER IN COMMAND: Porter didn’t need much of a lead to work with, walking none while flummoxing the Eagles with both fastballs on the corners and a curveball that he kept consistently in the zone.

“I’ve got a good defense behind me, so all I focus on is throwing strikes, especially first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of them,” he said. “If my defense is making plays, good. If I’m striking them out, good.”

Coach Lawrence said it was the kind of performance he’s known the left-hander was capable of entering the season.

“He did an awesome job,” he said. “He kept changing his speeds and his elevations. He kept them off balance, and he did a great job.”

It was the first time all season Erskine had been held under five runs.

“This year we’ve been weak defensively. … The last two games we’ve been pretty good defensively, and this is the first game we haven’t scored,” Jonassen said. “Logan had it going. To his credit, hey, they simply outplayed us.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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