DIXFIELD — Nate Gagne and Kyle Fletcher came at Dirigo’s hitters from different sides and different angles on the mound. But their results were essentially the same.

Gagne, Monmouth’s side-winding righthanded starter, and Fletcher, the Mustangs’ over-the-top lefthanded reliever, combined to strike out 16 Cougars and allowed just four hits for a 5-1 win in a crucial showdown of MVC once-beatens at Harlow Park on Wednesday.

Gagne fanned 12, walked three and hit a pair while surrendering all four hits in 5 1/3 innings. Fletcher relieved him with the tying run on first and one out in the sixth andstruck out the first two batters he faced. Then, after the Mustangs (10-1) scored three insurance runs in the seventh, he whiffed two more to close it out.

“Nate’s fastball gets by a lot of people,” Monmouth catcher Phil Rowe said. “Kyle has a real good curve ball and gets left-handed batters with it a lot. They both throw hard, but just coming from a different arm fools with them.”

“Actually, I was worried coming into this game, because this was probably our biggest game, this and St. Dom’s,” Gagne said. “Against St. Dom’s (a 5-3 loss exactly one week earlier), I threw alright, but I didn’t throw my best. We really needed a good game, so I was, like, ‘You know what, I’m just going to put that behind me, come in here and throw strikes.'”

Gagne saved his best stuff for the top four hitters in Dirigo’s batting order, who combined to go 0-for-11 (with four walks and a hit batter) and accounted for 10 of the strikeouts.

That was key, because the No. 5 and 6 hitters, Tyler Frost and Anthony Todd, collected all of Dirigo’s hits with two singles apiece. But most of those were neutralized with no one getting on base in front of them.

“Nate was on. He had good velocity, good movement,” Monmouth coach Eric Palleschi said. “He kept the ball down. He elevated when he needed to and got them to chase. He did a very good job on the mound.”

“I felt real confident with everything,” Gagne said. “Everything I put my hand on, I felt like was in the right position and I felt like I could throw it in for a strike. When I got behind them in the count, I just slowed down, took a breather and got back on top of it.”

Dirigo starter Kaine Hutchins (seven innings, five earned runs, eight hits, 10 strikeouts, eight walks) kept the Cougars (9-2) in it most of the way. But walks and a pair of hanging breaking balls that Alex Curtis ripped for RBI doubles came back to haunt him.

“Alex has learned to hit the curve ball. He does a good job of keeping his hands back and driving curve balls, and that’s what those were,” Palleschi said.

Curtis narrowly missed a home run with his first double to right-center that scored Brandon Goff, who led off the game with a walk.

In the third, he followed a one-out walk to Fletcher with a double to left to make it 2-0.

Gagne wiggled out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the second with a strikeout, fielder’s choice at home, and strikeout.

“I’ve never seen our team swing and miss at so many pitches before,” Dirigo coach Ryan Palmer said. “You’ve got to credit Gagne and Fletcher. They threw very, very well.”

Frost and Todd led off the fourth with back-to-back singles, with Frost going to third on the latter. Gagne was content to let Frost to come home and cut the lead in half in exchange for a 1-6-3 double play that muted the rally.

The Mustangs gave Fletcher some breathing room with three in the seventh on one hit, Fletcher’s RBI double. Hutchins walked Rowe and hit Jake Weeks with the bases loaded for the final runs.

“Kaine threw a great game. His curve ball was tough, and I told these guys we were going to have to manufacture a couple (of runs), and it was good that we did that. So that was a good win,” Palleschi said.


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