BETHEL — It is a rare occurrence when Jessica Dirago doesn’t put softball first.

Telstar’s senior pitcher has lived and breathed the sport for much of her life and throws the ball fueled by her devotion to the game.

When it came time to think about college, though,  Dirago wasn’t focused on the game that she loves.

“It was weird,” Dirago said. “Softball has been my whole life. Then I had to think about colleges first, and then think about softball. So if I found a college that was bigger and was Division I or Division II, then I probably wouldn’t play. I’m glad I found a good medium.”

Dirago settled on a place where she’ll combine her academic life with softball, and it won’t be far from home. Dirago has chosen the University of Maine at Farmington as her destination.

“I knew I couldn’t base my decision off of softball,” Dirago said. “I’m not completely sure what I want to go to college for, but I looked at Farmington and fell in love with it. I think it was the perfect school for me.”

Dirago has been one of the Mountain Valley Conference’s top hurlers during her career. She’s helped put the Rebels in contention in Western C and has them ranked fourth this spring at 8-2.

“When I started looking at UMF, I found out they were actually looking at me for softball,” Dirago said. “Then I looked into the program and looked at the records. I’m really excited to go play for them. They have a really good program.”

UMF went 14-14 (10-4 in conference) this season. The roster features a wealth of Maine talent from some traditionally strong programs like Cony, Oceanside, Bangor, Erskine, St. Dom’s and Dirigo.

“I’m excited to get coached by them and see if I can get better,” Dirago said.

The Rebels’ pitcher still has some work left in high school before starting that phase of her life. Telstar has won six of its last seven games and finish the regular season against some tough clubs like Dirigo, Hall-Dale, Spruce Mountain and Monmouth.

Dirago is trying to finish her high school career strong. After a stellar season last year, she’s among the elite pitchers in the state once again.

“Last year, she had a real good year,” Telstar coach Jim Lunney said. “She was a very good pitcher, but she still walked some. Her walks are down. Her wild pitches are down. She’s doing well.”

While still continuing to dominate hitters and regularly hit double digits in strike outs, Dirago has found more consistency this season.

“I put in a lot of work over the winter,” she said. “I found some new pitches. I think I’ve gotten better than last year.”

That’s been good news for the Rebels. Telstar is among the contenders in Western C and is showing that a money pitcher like Dirago could help pave the way in the tournament.

Just this week, Dirago two-hit top-ranked Madison in a 2-0 win, and then beat Oak Hill, a playoff contender in Western B. She held the Raiders to just three hits in a 5-1 win. Telstar has allowed just 18 runs in 10 games, including four shutouts and two one-run games.

“At Madison, she slammed the door on them,” Lunney said. “We got up 2-0 and the last eight batters, she threw strikes and didn’t give them a chance.”

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