MONMOUTH — Dirigo baseball defeats are so infrequent that they get taken personally, especially when the Cougars feel there were extenuating circumstances.

There are no asterisks in the Heal Point standings, of course, but the absence of seniors Kaine Hutchins, Tyler Frost and Mitch Kubesh didn’t help Dirigo’s cause in a season-opening home loss to Monmouth.

“We all had this game marked on our schedule,” junior left-handed pitcher Gavin Arsenault said. “I was pumped for this game because it was the second (pitching) loss of my career, so I knew it was a big game that I wanted to win.”

Arsenault struck out 10, allowed only four hits and kept Monmouth off the scoreboard until there were two outs in the seventh inning Tuesday afternoon in a 4-1 victory at Chick Field.

The run was significant: It ended an amazing stretch of 50 consecutive shutout innings by Dirigo’s pitching and defense, dating back to May 8.

“It was a good streak,” Dirigo coach Ryan Palmer said. “We’ve had awesome, stellar pitching all year long. That was the first run Gavin has given up since the first game of the year against these guys.”

Dirigo (13-1) hasn’t lost since the first Monmouth game April 24 and is locked into the top spot for the upcoming Class C West playoffs.

Arsenault went 3-for-4 with two stolen bases and a run scored. And those who were missing a month ago due to a senior trip to Europe shone brightly. Kubesh, Hutchins and Frost each had one of the Cougars’ 10 hits. Frost and Kubesh combined for three RBIs.

“They didn’t like the idea that we lost. They didn’t like the idea they were gone,” Palmer said.

Monmouth (8-6) suffered its fifth consecutive loss, all without junior catcher and offensive catalyst Gage Cote, who is expected to miss the rest of the season with a broken right hand.

Chandler Harris cracked a leadoff double down the right field line in the seventh and scored on Avery Pomerleau’s single for the Mustangs, who have no seniors.

Arsenault struck out Nick Dovinsky to end it.

“We’ve been seeing good pitching lately. Every game we see everybody’s best,” Monmouth coach Eric Palleschi said. “They took advantage of the baserunners they had. They left the bases loaded in the first, but after that they managed to score when they got guys on, and we didn’t.”

Hunter Richardson went the distance for Monmouth. The sophomore struck out six, walked four and stranded 10 Dirigo base runners.

Dirigo jumped ahead in the second inning. Freshman Cooper Chiasson (2-for-4) singled, stole second, advanced on Nick St. Germain’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a Kubesh hit.

St. Germain’s walk and Gus Brown’s bunt single triggered a two-out rally in the fourth. Cameron Turner ran for St. Germain and scored on a wild pitch.

Frost, who struck out and flied out earlier, dropped a squeeze bunt to plate Brown.

“Tyler kind of struggled with the bat the first two plate appearances,” Palmer said. “We thought it was a good situation for a squeeze to get his confidence up a little bit, and then he hit one hard next time up.

Back-to-back singles by Arsenault and Frost, sandwiched around an Arsenault steal, made it 4-0 with two out in the sixth.

Arsenault didn’t allow a hit until Jariah Caissie’s single to center with one out in the fourth. He had multiple strikeouts in the first, second, third, fifth and seventh frames.

“I felt like my fastball has been working the best,” Arsenault said. “I’ve actually been throwing more curveballs this season. I worked with it over the summer, and that’s been helping me out, too.”

Tom Small also had a hit for Monmouth, which has Winthrop and Telstar remaining and hopes to hold on to either a first-round bye or a home preliminary game.

“It would be nice to get back on track here going into the playoffs,” Palleschi said. “You’ve got to play with the ones you’ve got. I thought defensively we did a pretty good job.”

Dirigo dedicated the win to assistant coach and longtime Sun Journal sportswriter Bob McPhee, who is hospitalized after abdominal surgery.

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