The emotion in the eyes of St. Dom’s junior pitcher Mike Bryant was hard to miss Saturday after he struck out 11 and delivered two bases-loaded walks at the plate in an 8-4 Class C West semifinal win over Dirigo at Harlow Park in Dixfield.

It’s easy to understand why. Without his heroics, the third-seeded Saints were in danger of missing out on a trip to the regional final for only the second time since he was in kindergarten.

St. Dom’s (14-4) will play Sacopee Valley (18-0) at 3 p.m. Tuesday on the campus of Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. It is the 11th time in 12 Junes that the Saints have appeared in the game. The lone exception was 2012, when Winthrop upset St. Dom’s in the quarterfinals.

“Eleven out of 12. Can you imagine?” St. Dom’s coach Bob Blackman said. “I don’t know if that’s a record or not, but I know there’s not many that’s done it. That’s something to be pretty proud of.”

It was a rare journey for the Saints on two fronts.

“We’re not used to seeing Dirigo this early,” Bryant said.

Indeed, the two MVC rivals are accustomed to confronting one another at Mahaney Diamond, having met in the West final in 2010, 2011 and 2013.

This is also only the second time in Blackman’s tenure that St. Dom’s was not a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and guaranteed a home semifinal game.

Losses to Dirigo and Winthrop in the final week of the regular season sealed that fate, but the Saints have avenged each in the playoffs.

“It’s been a different kind of year all around,” Blackman said. “We started off so hot, and then we kind of stubbed our toe at the end of the year. We kind of had to refocus and had a really good week of practice leading up to the Winthrop game, and we kind of carried that through (Saturday).”

St. Dom’s has won four Class C state titles and six regional crowns since this run began with a loss to Jay in 2003.

For most of that stretch, the Saints were a member of the Western Maine Conference. Home-and-home series with the Hawks of remote South Hiram were a rite of spring.

Now Sacopee is an unknown quantity, and Blackman believes that could play into St. Dom’s aggressive hands, making its small-ball tendencies more effective.

The Hawks have knocked out MVC powers Lisbon and Monmouth, the top seed, en route to their first title game since 1993.

“I’ll make a phone call to Randy (Ridley of Lisbon) and Eric (Palleschi of Monmouth), and I’m sure they’ll share. We’re all pretty close in the Mountain Valley. We don’t know a whole lot,” Blackman said. “I kind of like it, because a lot of what we like to do, these (MVC) guys know about. Now we can go back and let’s see how they react.”

Lasting impression

Josh Murphy had every reason to sulk after his Maranacook/Winthrop Hawks lacrosse team fell to Yarmouth in the Eastern Class B semifinals on Saturday.

But he didn’t.

Murphy, the Hawks’ primary faceoff man, went through the line with his teammates, shaking each one of the Clippers’ hands after the visitors topped Maranacook/Winthrop 10-7.

But he wasn’t done. Murphy went back to the Yarmouth sideline after it was all over, to talk face-to-face with the person against which he’d been taking faceoffs all afternoon — Yarmouth’s Walter Conrad.

“Our faceoff man, Walter, is an all-conference player,” Yarmouth coach David Pearl said. “He’s an unbelievable player, and he had his hands full today. I don’t know the name of that young man (Murphy), but he’s a classy kid. he came over here after the game, talked to Walter after the game.  We’re not used to losing faceoffs.”

Ultimately, the Clippers won the faceoff battle, though mostly because of their pressure on the ball after a Murphy win.


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