SOUTH CHINA — Colby Lloyd had gone cold at a bad time. But a chat with a former coach gave the Erskine senior some peace of mind.

And in the biggest spot of the season, that gave him just enough confidence to get the biggest hit of his career.

Lloyd’s single up the middle scored Liam Perfetto with the winning run, and the Erskine baseball team advanced to the Class B North quarterfinals with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Gardiner on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve been hitting awful the past four games, I’ve been in like an 0-for-8 slump. I could not hit to save my life,” Lloyd said. “I knew we were going to win that game. In the fourth inning, I said ‘We’re going to win this game.'”

It was history repeating itself in the worst way for Gardiner, which lost to the Eagles by the same score, in the same round, and in the same walk-off fashion two years ago.

“It feels like deja vu from the last time we played a playoff game,” Tigers coach Charlie Lawrence said. “Obviously, it’s disappointment. These seniors are extremely upset. … Credit to them, getting through all the tough times with COVID and in the season, all the ups and downs.”

It had been mostly downs for Lloyd, whose slump lingered into the playoffs with strikeouts in his first two at-bats. After the second one, though, he had a quick talk with former Erskine head coach Lars Jonassen, who urged him to simplify his approach and swing.

“He gave me a lot of tips on how to hit. Get down, get your hands up and swing for contact,” he said. “That’s what I did.”

Erskine went into the seventh needing some magic. A pitchers’ duel between the Eagles’ Grady Hotham and Tigers’ Drew Kelley had remained scoreless after a perfect Gardiner relay caught Hotham trying to score on a Nick Barber double in the bottom of the sixth, and the Tigers took advantage in their next at-bat when consecutive two-out doubles from Chase Kelley and Wyatt Chadwick, the No. 8 and 9 hitters, put Gardiner up 1-0.

“It was time to hit,” Lloyd said. “That’s all we had to do. We had to score two runs. That’s nothing. We scored seven runs in an inning one time.”‘

Erskine’s Holden McKenney can’t tag Gardiner’s Darien Jamison during a Class B South prelim game Tuesday in South China. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Erskine began the rally with a lead-off single to right from Riley Sullivan, who had also relieved Hotham and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh. Holden McKenney bunted him to second, and a wild throw to try to get pinch-runner Joe Lemelin put runners at the corners. Sam Boynton followed with a grounder to short that forced McKenney but scored Lemelin to tie the game, and after Perfetto reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second, Lloyd rapped a grounder up the middle that kicked off second base and allowed Perfetto to score easily.

Even though the deficit had been erased, Lloyd felt the jitters.

“No pressure was off,” he said. “I’m one of the best hitters on this team, I need to hit. That 0-for-8 slump killed me.”

“All game long, we were waiting for that timely hit,” Eagles coach Scott Ballard said. “We finally got it.”

The Eagles appeared to get it in the sixth, when Hotham led off with an infield single and Barber followed with a shot to deep center over Chadwick’s head. Hotham hesitated for a moment thinking Chadwick had the ball lined up, and the delay cost him when Chadwick got a strong throw to shortstop Noah Reed, who in turn fired a strike to catcher Kyle Adams in time to get Hotham at the plate.

Gardiner baserunner Wyatt Chadwick slides into first under a throw during a Class B South prelim game Tuesday in South China. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Hotham, who struck out 12 and allowed three hits in 6.2 innings, was distraught moments later when he gave up the back-to-back doubles after beginning the seventh with two strikeouts. One half inning later, however, he was among the Eagles celebrating.

“I can’t put that into words. That’s all them,” Hotham said. “I get emotional, I knew it was going to be a battle for the bottom of the order to pick it up, and they did.”

He was matched every step of the way by Kelley, who went six innings, allowed four hits and struck out five.

“He’s been one of our main guys, and he was spot-on today,” Lawrence said. “We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the season. The kids have really worked hard, and we’ve worked on all the little things. … I’m proud of the way they played.”

Comments are not available on this story.