DIXFIELD – Dirigo baseball has made believers this season throughout the Mountain Valley Conference.
The Cougars have demonstrated a unique ability to pull together and that was certainly evident in Thursday’s game.
Gary Holman pitched a six-hitter, and Jon Smith hit a bases-clearing triple before scoring the winning run to rally for a 4-3 triumph over Winthrop at Harlow Park.
Dirigo (13-1) earned a berth in the MVC championship game and will likely enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in Western Class C.
The Cougars have benefited from a strong defense. Thursday was no exception.
“The defense has been there for us all year,” Dirigo coach Donnie Hebert said. “We need to have it because this team does not score a lot of runs. In a close ball game, some defensive plays can make a big difference.”
Winthrop’s Dave Ricker attempted to race to third on a single by Forest Dwyer, but Dirigo freshman James Moulton threw to freshman Aaron Fenstermacher, who applied the tag on the sliding Dwyer. An inning earlier, Dirigo catcher Spencer Berry threw Corey Gillispie out at second base to end the third inning.
Winthrop (10-3) had taken a 2-0 lead on a triple by Kyle Plossay and an RBI single by Dave Ricker in the fourth inning.
Winthrop pitcher Gillespie had been in control, but the Cougars found their swing in the fourth.
With one out, senior Chris Richards reached on a fielder’s choice, Derek Daley walked and Josh Daley singled to load the bases. Smith then guessed correctly and drilled a pitched down the line in left field. The sophomore alertly kept running and went into third base standing up.
“(Gillispie) had been hanging the curve ball,” Smith said. “Coach (Reggie) Weston told me to look for it. The first pitch was outside, but the second pitch was inside, so I pulled it. I had a head of steam and took third when I saw where the ball had rolled.”
The very next pitch sailed to the backstop, allowing Smith to race home with the eventual winning run.
Winthrop had jumped ahead 1-0 in the first, when Tavis Hasenfus reached on an error and scored on a single by Travis Frautton.
Holman (4-0) retired nine of the next 10 batters, before Ricker tripled, with one out in the fourth and scored on Dwyer’s single.
“My fast ball and curve worked well for me today,” Holman said. “My slider had good movement also. Entering the game, I just knew that I had to throw strikes because our defense is there to back me up.”