This season, the junior is increasing the heat as she steps into the pitcher’s circle for the Falcons. With ace Lindsay Marston graduated, Laubauskas is the heir to the pitching duties this season, and she made her debut Monday against Dirigo.

“I was a little nervous because this is basically my first year of actually pitching —being the only pitcher,” Laubauskas said. “I think I handled it pretty well.”

Laubauskas pitched a two-hitter and helped hurl her Falcons to a 3-1 win over the Cougars. She struck out 10 and got some fine defensive plays behind her as she worked her way through a number of Dirigo threats.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking,” said Laubauskas, who pitched a few times the last two seasons but played mostly third last year. “The game is all me now — me and the catcher (Abby Mazza). I knew I had to step up and take that responsibility.”

Dirigo stranded nine runners, including leaving the bases loaded in the third. The Cougars threatened in the sixth and seventh but managed just one run.

“I think we didn’t really capitalize when we had those base runners on,” Dirigo coach Sara Thurston said. “There were a few moments where we showed our inexperience with a few players that haven’t had a chance at this level yet. That will come. I said after the game, we’re allowed those moments, but we have to learn from them and not repeat them. Hopefully, that’s what they’ll do.”

The game was the first outing on the new Sally Clark Field. The new home of the Cougars was dedicated prior to the start of Monday’s game. Sally Clark, the longtime Dirigo coach was there with friends, family and former players attending. Players and coaches from both baseball teams left the baseball field to recognize the moment prior to their first pitch.

“It’s really exciting to be on this field,” Thurston said. “It’s been many years in the making. So today was a special day on a lot of different levels.”

After years of playing at Marble Park, which is down a side street across from the high school, the new field is just down the street from the high school and a quick walk from the other athletic fields.

“It’s sunny and it’s nice that people can quickly go back and forth from our game to the baseball game,” Thurston said. “Hopefully, that will encourage more fans to be here with us too.”

It was a pitcher’s duel early as Laubauskas and Dirigo’s Katelyn Olsen maintained a scoreless tie. The Cougars had the best chance in the third when it loaded the bases on walks and an error, but Laubauskas got a strikeout and fielded a ball hit back to her to end the inning.

Olsen allowed just five hits and struckout six. She only allowed two hits through the first five innings. In the sixth, the Falcons got the offense it needed.

With one out, Laubauskas reached on a bunt hit. Then Mazza followed with an infield hit. Karen Flaherty reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Laubauskas scored the first run on a wild pitch. Then a grounder by Sydney Petrie was thrown away, allowing Mazza and Flaherty to score.

“Since we didn’t get hits, we thought we’d try bunting,” Laubauskas said. “I thought it worked pretty well. We got each other around the bases and finally scored.”

Dirigo tried to rally in the bottom of the sixth. Summer Bradbury reached on an error. After a strikeout, Sophie Jacques walked. Then a grounder by Kenzie Lord was fielded by Flaherty at short. She was able to tag both pinch-runner Lillie Williams and Jacques for the double play to end the inning.

Then in the seventh, Brittany Greig reached on an error. After a line drive out, two errors on an Ellie Jasper bunt scored Greig. Laubauskas struck out the next batter but hit Olsen to put the tying run on. With Bradbury at the plate and runners at the corners, Olsen tried to take second but was thrown out to end the game.

“That seventh inning, we started to get the bat on the ball, but it was three innings too late,” Thurston said. “Maybe it was seven innings too late because we should have started the game that way.”

In addition to Flaherty’s double play at short, the Falcons got some fine defensive plays to squelch Dirigo opportunities. The Falcons caught Emma Lueders in a run-down in the first. Petrie made a nice sprawling catch at third. It was Mazza’s throw that caught Olsen trying to take second for the final out.

“We’re excited because its our first game of the season,” said Mountain Valley coach Lisa Russell. “We very excited to get a win. It was nice to get out there and put the bat on the ball. We struggled a little bit at first, but then we got the hang of it.”

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