SANFORD – Brett Mollenhauer made the most of a must-win situation.

Playing for the first time in five days because of an ankle injury, Mollenhauer’s return was fruitful Thursday night in a 6-0 victory against the North Shore Navigators at Goodall Park.

Mollenhauer went 3 for 4 with three RBI to help the Mainers tie the best-of-three NECBL Eastern Division semifinal, 1-1.

The winner of today’s game in Lynn, Mass., will face Laconia for the Eastern Division title and a championship series berth.

“It was nice to be out here again,” said Mollenhauer, who sat out three games. “We all played well and we all knew that we had to win to keep going.”

Mollenhauer missed the final two regular-season games, and the first game of this series.

“He hadn’t been on the field and he himself wasn’t sure of his availability,” Manager Aaron Izaryk said. “But (Thursday) he got here early, got taped up and said he was ready to go. He gave me the green light.”

The Mainers took a four-run lead in the first three innings.

Facing two-out situations each inning, Sanford took a 1-0 lead in the first. Mike Montville’s double down the first-base line scored Mollenhauer from second.

The Mainers made it 3-0 in the second when Marlon Calbi’s two-out line single to left drove in Tim Panetta from second, and Mollenhauer’s single drove in Ryan Coppinger.

Then the Mainers made it 4-0 an inning later when Panetta’s single drove in Montville.

“You always want to try to get ahead early,” Mollenhauer said. “Any time you can get ahead early, you can get the momentum going your way. And it’s never easy to play from behind.”

Though Sanford’s batters struck out seven times against North Shore’s four pitchers — starter Michael Johnson, and relievers Joe Gruntkosky, Ryan Grant and Bobby Dean — the Mainers outhit the Navigators 10-5, including five hits in the first three innings. Mollenhauer gave Sanford a 6-0 lead in the sixth on a two-run single.

“You can’t teach clutch hitting,” Izaryk said. “You just have to trust your at-bats and trust what you’ve done in practice and through the year to make sure that at that point, you’re ready to go.

“To get clutch hits, you have to put the ball in play. We didn’t strike out that much tonight and I think that was an important part of our success.”

Furthermore, the Mainers avoided a North Shore threat in the third.

With runners on first and second and one out, Lawrence struck out Clinton Harwick, and Eric Jagielo flew to center.

“It says a lot about our team and the makeup of our team, wanting to come out and play hard for Tommy (Lawrence, Sanford’s starting pitcher),” Izaryk said. “Just to come out and play that well behind him, it speaks a lot about the character of our guys and the fact that they compete.”

Izaryk said Tripp Davis will start tonight. Panetta and Montville each had two hits, and Lawrence gave up five hits in a complete game.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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