The cold spring has started to warm up — not that its effects aren’t still being felt.

“This has been the roughest spring I can remember in my 34 years,” said Winthrop baseball coach Marc Fortin, who estimated his team had had four or five outdoor practices entering this week. “Our field was ready, it rained, it was ready again, it rained again. It’s been one thing after another.”

Even so, the Ramblers have figured out a way to pull through it. Once looking for a rhythm and some direction at 2-3, Winthrop has won five of its last six games, putting it at 7-4 and in ninth in the Class C South standings, in position to make the region’s 10-team playoff field.

“We haven’t (been watching the standings), and I haven’t, but all of a sudden it’s sneaking up on you,” Fortin said. “We think we can make up some ground if we win some of these games that are ahead of us. It’s starting to firm up.”

The Ramblers have been capitalizing on the soft part of their schedule. Winthrop beat Wiscasset and Mt. Abram, then swept a doubleheader from Telstar and beat Boothbay on Wednesday, teams that are a combined 9-32.

“Sometimes you say those teams that don’t have winning records don’t mean much as far as wins and losses, but you look at (first-place) Hall-Dale, they’re playing these teams,” Fortin said. “You beat these teams, you end up in first place.

“We have to say, yeah, these are good wins, and they’re going to move us through the Heals, we hope. We keep putting these together, we’ll be in business.”

Any wins would have been nice after a scuffling start that had Winthrop trying to find its playoff form from a year ago on the fly. Even as he’s seen his team’s position improve, Fortin said he would like to see the team’s play take another step forward as well.

“We think we should be playing better defensively,” he said. “We’re not perfectly happy, even though we’re winning these games. We’re making a few more errors than we’d like to be making, and we’re not getting as many key hits as we’d like to be getting.”

Pitching has been fine, though Fortin said it highlights another area the Ramblers want to address in the coming weeks.

“What’s been our Achilles tendon is our pitching’s our infielders. And when they’re pitching, we haven’t found the right replacements,” he said. “When Greg (Fay) is pitching, all of a sudden we need a shortstop. When Carson (Camick) is pitching, all of a sudden we need a third baseman. When Ryan Baird’s pitching, all of a sudden we need a first baseman. We’re still looking for the right replacements.”

• • •

Gardiner coach Charlie Lawrence had a challenge for his team, which was starting a charity drive to collect household items for homeless veterans. He has a pickup truck, and he wanted to see it filled with donations.

Just as they’ve been doing on the field, the Tigers exceeded expectations. The drive brought in $2,698 worth of household items as part of the VA2K effort, requiring four trucks to deliver the items to the VA Medical Center on Wednesday morning.

“That’s pretty awesome. I’m pretty proud of them. They followed through all the way,” said Lawrence, himself a veteran. “We sort of made a little parade of ourselves. … We were glad we could help with this cause, we really felt like we made a difference.”

The players collected items on their own and had a donations area set up at home games. Some visiting teams, most notably Lincoln Academy, helped out. The drive also accepted money donations, and Lawrence said the team went on a spending spree to find even more items to add to the collection.

“That was pretty fun, to watch them buy stuff they knew the veterans might need and to see them bonding over it,” he said. “We’ve got some great team chemistry going right now. To see them bonding and appreciative of some things they took for granted is pretty awesome.”

• • •

Gardiner’s success has continued on the field. Lawrence, a first-year head coach, has guided the Tigers to eight straight wins, a 9-2 record and the sixth spot in the B North standings entering Thursday.

“Being my first year coaching, I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” he said. “We had to move some kids around and figure out some roles, and the kids have been really positive about it and embraced their new roles. We’re playing really good team baseball.”

Indeed, whatever the situation has called for, the Tigers have been able to play it. The pitching, led by Logan Porter, Cole Lawrence and Alic Shorey, was always expected to be strong. And while it has been — Gardiner hasn’t allowed more than five runs in a game since the opener — the Tigers have also turned into a team that can generate plenty of offense at the plate.

“I’m a little surprised at how many runs we’re scoring per game,” Coach Lawrence said. “We’re hitting the ball well. Our approach at the plate has really improved since the season began. The kids are really going up there with a plan at the plate.”

• • •

Some games to look forward to this weekend with playoff implications:

• Winthrop hosts Lisbon on Monday. The Ramblers can’t overlook Dirigo on Friday, but a win in that game would be Winthrop’s sixth in seven games and pit its momentum against a strong Greyhounds team that has lost only to undefeated Hall-Dale.

• Hall-Dale at Bridgeway on Wednesday. At 6-5 entering Thursday, the Bandits are looking to improve their position in time for the postseason. They’ll test the Bulldogs … or provide evidence as to how far ahead Hall-Dale is.

• Maranacook at Waterville on Wednesday. The 10-2 Black Bears had their roll slowed with a loss to St. Dominic, but a whole lot of Heal points will be on the table when they visit 7-4 Waterville, which went into Thursday sitting 12th in the highly competitive Class B North region.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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