SOUTH CHINA — In two regular season wins, Erskine Academy outscored Gardiner by a combined 15 runs. Erskine coach Scott Ballard knew that now, in the playoffs, that meant nothing.

“I’ve been watching their scores and talking to people, and they played us tough, honestly, the last time at Gardiner,” Ballard said. “They’re much improved. I knew it would be a battle. I didn’t know it would quite go like that, but I knew it’d be close.”

Tuesday afternoon, Ballard’s Eagles needed an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh inning  to hold off the Tigers, 2-1. No. 7 Erskine, now 9-8, will face No. 2 Hermon (15-1) in the Class B North quarterfinals. No. 10 Gardiner ends the season at 7-10.

Erskine scored the winning run with one out in the bottom of the seventh, when Caden Turcotte scored on an error against Gardiner’s drawn-in infield. Turcotte led off the inning with an infield single. Gardiner first baseman Isaac Gammon did a nice job knocking down Turcotte ground ball, but Turcotte beat a diving Gammon to the bag.

After Sage Hapgood-Belanger advanced Turcotte to second base with a sacrifice bunt, Braden Soule singled off Casey Bourque, who had just taken the mound in relief of starter Darien Jamison. While Jamison wasn’t quite to the 110 pitch limit, Gardiner coach Charlie Lawrence said with the Eagles about to start their fourth time through the order, he felt it was time to give them a different look, switching from the lefty Jamison to the right-handed Bourque.

An intentional walk to Joe Clark loaded the bases for Lucas Anderson, who hit a slow roller the drawn-in infield couldn’t handle, scoring Turcotte with the game-winning run.

“I was looking for a strike middle-in, and I just wanted to get it in play,” Anderson said.

“We got what we wanted there with a ground ball and a play at home, we just didn’t execute,” Lawrence said.

This was a scoreless game until the bottom of the sixth inning, when Erskine took a 1-0 lead. With two outs, Nick Howard’s fly ball down the right field line was just out of reach of a diving Chase Kelly. Howard reached second with a double, scoring Nick Barber, who had walked and moved to second base on a balk.

The Tigers tied it in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with one out. Andrew Kelly’s sacrifice fly to right scored Chase Kelly with the tying run. It was Gardiner’s second bases loaded opportunity of the game. The Tigers loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning, but Erskine pitcher Anderson got out of the jam without a scratch with a popup and a double play.

“I’m just trying to throw strikes. I’ve been missing high lately, but I was trusting my defense,” Anderson said. “A little nervous, but I’ve just got to trust what I have on the mound.”

Anderson went the complete game, allowing five hits and three walks with two strikeouts.

“He’s been our leader on the mound all year. I wasn’t surprised. He’s a competitor,” Ballard said of Anderson.

Jamison was equally impressive for Gardiner, especially considering when he made the start at Erskine in a 12-2 loss early in the season, he didn’t get out of the first inning. On Tuesday, Gardiner’s lefty was sharp, allowing seven hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. Jamison wriggled out of his own bases loaded jam in the fourth inning without allowing a run, and picked a pair of Eagles off first base.

“Early in the season, (Jamison) came here and got frustrated. He couldn’t throw a strike. For him to come here and battle today, he pitched outstanding. He picked some guys off first. he had a great outing,” Lawrence said.

For Gardiner, making the playoffs after an 0-5 start was notable, even if Tuesday loss hurt.

“We started out 0-5. These guys grew up fast. They played extremely hard,” Lawrence said. “We had our opportunities. We didn’t hit the ball as well today as we have been. We left too many guys on base, and it ended up catching up to us at the end.”


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