GARDINER — A five-run first inning boosted Franklin County to a 17-8 American Legion Zone 2 baseball win over Gardiner on Tuesday.

That early outburst put Franklin in an unfamiliar position.

“We’re young and we haven’t had a great year, so it’s good — and it might be the second or third lead we’ve had all year,” Franklin coach Kyle Gunzinger said.

Franklin’s first-inning output came without a single hit, as Gardiner starter Jake Bannister struggled to find the strike zone and walked five batters and hit another.

Franklin then backed up that big first inning with 13 hits and 12 more runs.

Neither team had a scoreless frame until the seventh inning.

“They were able to jump on us in that first inning. It’s hard when you dig yourselves a five-run hole in the first inning, before you get your first chance at the plate,” Gardiner coach Russ Beckwith said.

“And they did a great job the rest of the way chipping away, every time we grabbed one, they grabbed one, and it started to snowball.”

Gardiner cut its deficit to 7-4 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third, but Franklin responded with a four-run fourth.

Nate Goodine reached on an error, Tom Wing singled and Miles Pelletier walked to load the bases with no outs. Goodine scored on Bo Beaulieu’s sacrifice grounder, and Wing and Pelletier came home on Hunter Bolduc’s two-run double. Later in the inning, catcher Ethan Andrews singled in Bolduc to make Franklin’s lead 11-4.

In the fifth inning, Franklin’s Colton Lawrence scored on Goodine’s double and Goodine came home on Pelletier’s sacrifice, and Franklin led 13-5.

Franklin wrapped up with scoring with four runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by Lawrence’s two-run double.

“We hit the ball as well as we have all year,” Gunzinger said. “So that’s a good sign, I guess. We’re improving, that’s what I get out of it.”

Those runs made the lead 17-6 and put Franklin three outs away from ending the game an inning early.

Lawrence fanned Hunter Richardson and Connor Nillson to record the first of those two outs, but in between those two strikeouts he walked Devon Maschino, who went from first to third when Lawrence pickoff attempt flew over first basemen Corey Rogers’ glove. Maschino scored on an infield hit by Nick Sanborn.

Sanborn stole second and went to third on a passed ball. He then scored on another passed ball when home plate was left uncovered to cut Franklin’s lead to 17-8. That took the mercy rule out of play, and sent the game into the seventh inning.

Lawrence and Gardiner reliever Jonah Martin each struck out two in the inning and each team managed only one base runner.

Lawrence tossed a complete game for Franklin, striking out 12 and allowing nine hits.

“He did fairly well. We didn’t help him in some spots,” Gunzinger said.

Franklin’s victory put it a game ahead of Smith-Tobey for the eighth and final berth in the Zone 2 tournament, which begins next week.

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