At 7-4 with five games left, the question for the Waterville Senior High School baseball team isn’t whether or not it will make the Class B North playoffs. Now, the Purple Panthers need to ask themselves if they can win enough Heal points to host a preliminary round game.

Waterville is currently in 11th place in the region, and must climb at least three spots to eighth place to host a first-round game. The Purple Panthers sit almost 12 points behind current eighth place Old Town. Four of Waterville’s final five regular season games are at home, including Friday’s game against Mount View (2-9). Wins over Maranacook (10-1) or Nokomis (10-2) next week could be enough to propel the Panthers up the standings.

“Personally, I look at the next opponent up, so today will be about focusing on what we need to do on Friday with Mount View,” Waterville coach Russell Beckwith said before Thursday’s practice. “We’ll tackle those battles when they come. Obviously, we know what’s in the future so we’ll try to line up the appropriate pitching for those two matchups and we’ll go from there.”

This is Beckwith’s first season as Waterville’s coach after three seasons as head coach at Gardiner. This season, has had a certain amount of getting-to-know-you time for Beckwith as his players.

“I think we’re headed in a direction we’re happy with as a program. We’re still continuing to progress as a group, and everything is positive right now,” Beckwith said. “Every group of athletes every year is different, but every year is the same in that you start small and continue to build. This group here is just starting to click in the way they feel comfortable. We have key pieces hitting their strides at the right time. The top two-thirds of our lineup is in a good place, from a production standpoint, and we’re looking to capitalize on that now.”

Over these final five regular season games, Beckwith would like to see the Panthers continue to improve situational hitting. He pointed to last week’s 3-0 loss at Erskine as a game in which the Panthers struggled with that, twice stranding runners in scoring position with less than two outs. The team was better this week, Beckwith said, in wins over Medomak Valley and Lawrence.

“For us, it’s remembering in key situations the approach to our at bats,” Beckwith said. “Knowing when there’s a runner on second base, we want to hit the ball to the right side to advance the runner. Those are things we work on and discuss quite often.”

Having played seven games on the road already, Beckwith said his team is happy to finish the regular season at home. Next Friday’s game at Nokomis is Waterville’s only remaining road game.

“Even though some of our travels haven’t been too far away this year, it is nice to come to the confines of your own dugout and walk out onto the field. It’s a different level of confidence that occurs at home games. These guys are excited to finish up with those games here,” Beckwith said.

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Unlike Waterville, Lawrence will finish the season on the road. Friday’s game against Messalonskee is the Bulldogs’ final home game of the season. Lawrence (3-8) will need to play well on the road against Mt. Blue, Lewiston, Gardiner and Erskine to earn a playoff spot in Class B North.

“We have three Class A opponents in our last five. There’s plenty of (Heal) points there,” Lawrence coach Rusty Mercier said. “We’ve got to play a consistent seven innings and hit the ball a little better… We’ve been in most of our games, then we have that one bad inning.”

Lawrence is currently dealing with an arm injury to senior Braden Ballard, the team’s top pitcher and No. 3 hitter. The Bulldogs are also young, with three freshmen — middle infielder Dylan Coombs, catcher/third baseman Zack Nickerson and outfielder/first baseman Chris Dow regularly in the starting lineup. A bright spot has been senior Josh Dow, who is hitting well above .300, Mercier said.

“We’re pretty young in a lot of key spots,” Mercier said.

Before Friday’s game against Messalonskee, Lawrence will dedicate a new scholarship in memory of George Taylor. A youth baseball coach in Fairfield for 50 years, Taylor, 94, died last summer. The George Taylor Scholarship will go to a Lawrence senior baseball player who plans to attend college.

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Around the state: Another team was knocked from the unbeaten ranks Thursday, when Bangor beat Edward Little, 3-1. The Red Eddies are now 12-1… A big game in Class B South Friday is No. 3 Cape Elizabeth (8-3) at No. 1 Wells (9-1)… Since a 2-1 win over Rangeley in the season opener, Richmond has scored at least 11 runs in every game. The Bobcats are 8-0 and play a doubleheader against Vinalhaven on Saturday.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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