GARDINER — Nothing was working. So Gardiner baseball coach Charlie Lawrence played a hunch.

The Tigers had no hits and no rhythm going into the fifth inning of their Class B North preliminary game with Belfast, so Lawrence sent up freshman Isaac Gammon, looking for a spark.

“There have been a few games where he’s done that for us, stepped in there and put the ball in play or gotten that base hit when we needed it,” Lawrence said. “Sometimes you throw a kid like that in there, who you know can hit, just to shake things up.”

Gardiner’s Cole Lawrence looks to avoid a collision with Belfast sophomore Dakota Payson at first base during a Class B North prelim game Tuesday in Gardiner.

The roll of the dice worked perfectly. Gammon singled to kick-start a two-run rally in the fifth, leading No. 6 Gardiner to a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the 11th-seeded Lions that ended a string of four straight preliminary round losses and brought the Tigers into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2012.

“I told the guys that every playoff game is going to be like this,” said Lawrence, whose team improved to 13-4. “I’m proud of them. They just kept battling, just kept fighting. They could have gotten down on themselves when we weren’t scoring early, but they didn’t. They came through when they needed to.”

Logan Porter and Kolton Brochu had RBI singles during the rally, which made a winner out of Cole Lawrence. The senior pitched all seven innings, allowing four hits and striking out four.

Grey Dinsmore pitched six innings for Belfast (9-8), and scored the Lions’ lone run on a single by Chris Kelley.

“You’ve got to score more runs. That’s really what it comes down to,” said Belfast coach George Ross, who is retiring after 37 seasons. “We had a couple of opportunities, and we didn’t get it done.”

IN A PINCH: And yet, for much of the game it looked like Belfast’s one run, scored in the second when Dinsmore came in on Kelley’s two-out single to center, would be enough. Dinsmore had the Gardiner lineup flummoxed, using both a hurried pace on the mound and an effective mix of fastballs and breaking pitches to keep the Tigers hitters off-balance. He had retired seven straight batters when Gammon, one of the team’s most often used pinch-hitters, got the word that he was going to be leading off the fifth.

“I only come in for an inning most of the time, and every time I just have that mentality that I’m just going to go up there and hit the ball,” he said. “Coach always says you’ve got to have that one-pitch mentality.”

Nevertheless, this call was coming in a playoff game, and Gammon said the jitters were kicking in as he walked to the plate.

“I’m nervous. I’m really nervous,” he said. “My coach said ‘Just go in there and relax,’ because I had a lot of anxiety going up to the plate.”

Gammon swung confidently at the first pitch he saw, however, drilling the team’s first hit to right field. From there, the rushed swings of the previous four innings gave way to the patient approach that led Gardiner to 12 regular-season wins. Cam Bourassa dropped a sacrifice bunt, and Porter came up and chopped a single by the lunging third baseman, with Gammon racing home from second to score the tying run.

“It was nice. I was 0-for-2 before, and I just kept my composure,” Porter said. “I was able to sneak it down the third-base line.”

NO PANIC: After Porter went to third on a groundout, Brochu put the Tigers ahead to stay, knocking a slow roller up the middle that Belfast shortstop Luke Hamlin had to rush to field and throw. The throw was off the mark, allowing Porter to score easily and make the score 2-1.

“We knew that eventually we had to get something going,” Porter said. “We couldn’t keep waiting like this.”

The Tigers were sensing the urgency, but Porter said there was no feeling of panic.

“In games this year, we’ve been getting multiple runs in an inning,” he said. “We kept our composure and we were able to do that.”

Gardiner freshman Isaac Gammon slides under a throw to home as Belfast catcher Tanner Veilleux chases after the ball during a Class B North prelim game Tuesday in Gardiner.

MATCHING ZEROES: While Dinsmore cruised through the lineup, Cole Lawrence made sure his team remained in striking distance, stifling the Belfast lineup inning after inning and preserving the one-run deficit.

“We watched them in batting practice and we realized they couldn’t really reach the outside and the inside, the corners of the plate, and that’s where I was looking to get to,” he said. “We knew coming into the playoffs that every game was going to be like this atmosphere, these low-scoring games.”

Given the lead, Lawrence found another gear to finish off the Lions. After stranding a pair in the sixth, he struck out the side in the seventh, closing the door on the sort of playoff win the Tigers had been longing for.

“They just stayed with it and fought through it,” Coach Lawrence said. “If they keep playing like that, I think we can keep playing for a while.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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