The home stretch has arrived for high school baseball teams to make their final playoff runs, and what a run Gray-New Gloucester has had.

The Patriots began 0-6 but have won eight of their last nine to climb into seventh place in Western Class B. Nine teams qualify for the playoffs.

Several players have gotten hot at the right time. Ryan Cavallaro is hitting .430. Pat Robinson and Chris Norton have hit well. Pitcher Taylor Valente has hit his stride.

“Taylor is throwing the ball very well,” said Coach Nolan Beckwith.

But with the surge comes concern. The Patriots have a week’s wait from Wednesday’s 2-1, 12-inning victory against Poland to their final regular-season game next Wednesday at York.

“It will give us a chance to rest up some nagging arms.” Beckwith said. “I would like to play sooner since we’re operating on all cylinders, but we’ll use the extra practice time well.”

Like Gray-New Gloucester and many others, Windham is seeking enough Heal points to make the postseason.

The Eagles were helped by key wins against Westbrook and Portland this week. The Eagles were ranked eighth — the final playoff berth — before Thursday’s 3-2 win over Cheverus.

“The league is so competitive that the margin to get in is very small,” said Windham Coach Mike Fullerton.

In past seasons, two-thirds of the teams in a class qualified for the playoffs, but that was reduced by the Maine Principals’ Association before the fall season to 50 percent.

Among the teams competing with Windham to make it are Portland and Marshwood. South Portland likely solidified a berth with a 2-0 win Thursday over Westbrook.

Marshwood has struggled after being ranked one of the top teams in the preseason. The Hawks may need to beat Westbrook at home today to get into the tournament.

Windham has games remaining against Kennebunk on Saturday and Scarborough on Tuesday.

“It’s been an up-and-down season,” said Fullerton. “We started 3-0, then lost to Thornton Academy and Bonny Eagle. We turned things around against Westbrook and Portland.

“Any game you win is going to help. You really can’t take anyone lightly.”

Sophomore Cody Dube, who has faced the top teams like Westbrook, Deering, Marshwood and Cheverus, has pitched well.

Another bright spot has been outfielder Drew Gagnon, a junior who leads the Eagles in batting average (.436), RBI (12), doubles, triples and home runs. Cody Laberge had a game-winning double against Westbrook.

Fullerton said there’s a reason those players and others are successful.

“The players who have done things in the offseason, like lift weights and worked on their games, are the ones who are successful,” said Fullerton.

EIGHT DEERING HIGH players visited the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center on Wednesday.

They played games with the kids and handed out baseball hats and T-shirts.

“Anytime you can put a smile on other kids’ faces, that’s important,” said Deering Coach Mike Coutts.

“It helps to put things in perspective and makes us realize how fortunate we are to do the things we do.”

Coutts said another eight players hope to visit the hospital before the end of the season.

Deering picked up a 4-3 victory against South Portland last Saturday night at Hadlock Field. The Rams scored two runs in the seventh to win it.

“It was a very well-played game,” said Coutts.

In the absence of junior right-hander Jamie Ross, who hasn’t been able to pitch for the last three weeks because of a sore arm, the rest of the Deering pitchers have stepped up.

Travis Wade, Sam Balzano and Jake Nichols have responded. Ross is playing in the outfield and contributing at the plate.

“We don’t know when he’ll be ready to pitch,” said Coutts.

Deering will play Bonny Eagle at 4 p.m. today at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.

THE TELEGRAM LEAGUE playoffs will be held June 5, with the top four ranked teams in the Heal point standings taking part.

The title will be decided in one day. The semifinals will be at 11 a.m., with the championship game at 4 p.m.

The final will be played on the field of the No. 1 team, regardless of the semifinal results.

There will be no tournament prelim games in Western Class A. The regional quarterfinals begin June 10.

Teams are limited to one non-countable date during the season to settle league championships.

Five non-countable preseason dates were allowed in a rule adopted by the Maine Principals’ Association prior to the winter sports season.

Baseball coaches said the rule hurts their sport.

“I despise it,” said Westbrook Coach Mike Rutherford. “It’s bad for baseball.

“We played 15 exhibition games last year and 13 the year before. With the good weather we had this spring, we could have played a ton of games. I couldn’t develop the arms of my other pitchers because of this rule.”

High school baseball seasons are short, anyway. The more games teams are able to play, the better quality of baseball will emerge.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]