Asked what has improved from the beginning of the season to now, Gardiner baseball coach Charlie Lawrence didn’t take long to come up with an answer.

“Everything,” he said. “We’ve started jelling, we’ve stepped into our roles, we’ve embraced those roles. They’re coming together as a team, they’re liking each other, they’re playing together for each other, and that’s a big difference.”

Gardiner continued its second-half resurgence Friday, overcoming error-prone Lawrence 6-4 in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference matchup at Keyes Field. After an 0-5 start, the Tigers have won six of nine, and three in a row to put themselves back into the Class B North playoff race.

Lawrence first baseman Nick Robertson jumps for the ball on a throw from third baseman Zach Nickerson allowing Gardiner’s Darien Jamison to first base in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B game Friday in Fairfield. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“Right now, the last week, we’re really hitting the crap out of the baseball,” Lawrence said. “We’re putting it in play a lot, we’re doing the little things, we’re bunting and moving runners. We’re doing all the little stuff that teams have got to do to win ball games.”

The Tigers (6-8) are winning, in part because they know they can’t afford not to.

“Every game is like a playoff game, because we’re fighting, we’re right around the 14 spot,” said senior Casey Bourque, who had three hits and scored two runs while going 6.2 innings on the mound. “This was our biggest win of the week, as far as Heal points goes. We had a lot of momentum, but we knew we had to come to play today to beat these guys.”

Gardiner needed to erase two Lawrence leads to get the victory, and it was helped along by a Bulldogs defense that committed seven errors.

“We didn’t make the plays,” said Lawrence coach Rusty Mercier, whose team fell to 7-8. “Give Gardiner credit, they made the plays when they needed to. … If we make the plays and hold the lead a little later in the game, we’d probably be OK. But we didn’t hit the ball particularly well.”

The Bulldogs were up 4-3 going into the top of the sixth when Gardiner staged its final rally. Bourque led off with a single, and after a bunt, Drew Kelley (four hits) singled to center to score him with the tying run. An error and walk to Darien Jamison loaded the bases with one out, and Logan Grover hit a chopper to shortstop. The throw in went off the catcher’s glove, allowing Kelley and Kyle Adams to come in for the go-ahead runs.

Bourque said his team was feeling good about its ability to come back, even before he started it off.

“I think we felt pretty confident still. We didn’t get down on ourselves,” said Bourque, who kept the Bulldogs off the board in the sixth and for two outs in the seventh before giving way to Isaac Gammon for the save. “Earlier this week we came back from six runs down in an inning, so we knew we could do it again.”

The Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead, getting runs in the second inning when Nick Robertson doubled and scored on Jacob Ryder’s sacrifice fly, and then in the third when Dylan Coombs walked, took two bases on a wild pitch and scored on a Nate Bickford fly ball.

Gardiner went in front 3-2 with three unearned runs in the fourth, with Bourque and Kelley picking up RBI singles during an inning that featured four Bulldog errors. Lawrence battled back in the fifth, tying the game when Bickford singled, stole two bases and came in on a wild throw down to third. Nick Grard, who had walked, went to third on the play, and then scored when the Tigers tried to go home on Chris Dow’s grounder to third and couldn’t complete the play, giving the Bulldogs back the lead at 4-3.

Gardiner had its final answer ready.

Lawrence’s Nick Grard (5) tries to beat the throw to Gardiner catcher Kyle Adams at home plate in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B game Friday in Fairfield. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“They’re playing the way we want them to play,” Lawrence said. “They’re really maturing and growing up, and it’s fun to watch. It’s fun to see them grow up and play good baseball.”

The Bulldogs have one game left, a Tuesday matchup with Erskine, before starting the playoffs.

“I’d like to see us shore up our defense a bit and start to hit the ball a little better,” Mercier said. “Maybe a little break this weekend will help us to refocus.”

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