Spruce Mountain graduate Jordy Daigle receives the Connor James King Award from Don King in Livermore Falls on Wednesday afternoon before the Phoenix took on the Dirigo Cougars. The first-ever award honors the memory of Connor King, who was killed in a car crash last year. His father, Don, was also seriously injured in the car accident. Sun Journal photo by Tony Blasi

LIVERMORE FALLS — The squeeze-bunt thing worked so well for Dirigo in the fifth inning that the Cougars shook off Spruce Mountain with an 8-5 victory in Mountain Valley Conference baseball game Wednesday.

But before the two teams clashed, the inaugural Connor James King Award was presented to 2018 Spruce Mountain graduate Jordy Daigle, who recently completed his first year at Harvard University on a full academic scholarship.

The award was established in honor of King, who was killed in a car accident in 2018. His father, Poland High School athletic director Don King, was seriously injured in the crash.

After the ceremonial first pitch from Don King to Jordy Daigle, the teams battled throughout four innings to 5-5 tie before the Cougars made their move in the fifth inning with their short-game approach.

Outfielder Liam Burnett started the four-run outburst in the fifth when he got on with an error. Jeremy St. Germain walked and both he and Burnett came home when shortstop Cole Brown ripped a two-run triple.

Then came a series of bunts and sacrifices that brought home Brown and Chandler Redmond, who also got on with a bunt. All this bunting and hitting culminated in an 7-4 lead for the Cougars. 

“We knew we had to be aggressive this year,” Dirigo coach Ryan Palmer said. “We had to do things to score runs. The past couple of games we have been overly aggressive. 

“Last game, we kind of got engaged to small ball. Today, I think we married small ball. We bunted a lot, especially in that last inning. I said I’d like a three-run lead instead of a two-run lead. That was the thought process.

“We scouted them before and we knew they struggled under pressure and our goal was to put pressure on them, make them make plays.”

Dirigo got one more run the top of the seventh inning when Tucker Olsen’s infield sacrifice brought home Brown, who got on with an error. The Cougars managed only four hits, but their base running and short game came in quite handy.

In the top of the second inning, Dirigo opened up a 3-run lead thanks to a walk, error and an RBI single by designated hitter Nolan DeGroot.

Dirigo pitcher Mike Packard got the win on the mound after relieving starting pitcher Sam Holmes.

The Phoenix rallied in the top of the third inning to tie the game when third baseman Bryson Bailey, who went 4-for-4 with three doubles and a single, ripped a two-run double and outfielder Jack Gilbert hit an RBI single.

Spruce Mountain took a 5-3 lead in the fourth inning when Bailey belted his second two-run double. For the day, the Phoenix piled up 11 hits. Pitcher Logan Moffett was tagged with the loss.

“They had a good inning. They got the squeeze plays,” Spruce Mountain coach David Frey said. “That’s what did it. We made some miscues that cost us.

“They played well. Like I said, that inning they had some timely hitting, some timely squeeze plays that went well.”

BACK HOME

You don’t have to tell Jorday Daigle that receiving the first-ever Connor James King Award was an honor.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t know him,” Daigle said. “But just from what I have heard, I am extremely honored to have his name connected to mine, especially it is the first year. It feels like it carries a special weight. It’s very humbling.”

Daigle is now a sophomore at Harvard studying chemical engineering and soon will be studying abroad in Italy.

Lewiston baseball coach Darren Hartley explained how the award was established.

“Basically, at our umpires meeting, there was a discussion point because of the relationship between Donnie King and his son, Connor, and family,” Hartley said. “Connor was such a distinguished participant on the baseball diamond. It became a talking point amongst the board that we should recognize an award given annually by the Maine Central Board to recognize a a distinguished player.”

Hartley said sportsmanship, character and civic mindedness play a huge role in who gets the award. He added that the award doesn’t have to be awarded to an MVP player.

“And the kid who it is going is just that,” Hartley said. “Of course, that’s what Connor was.”

Jordy Daigle, third from left. stands with his parents, Janet and Jason Daigle, far left, and the King family and friends, including, Jeanette Parsons, Don King, Cameron Eggerman, Carly King, Shirley King, Morgan Parsons, Robert Parsons and Hailey Parsons. Daigle was presented with the first Connor King Award. Sun Journal photo by Tony Blasi

Don King throws out the ceremonial first pitch to Jordy Daigle on Wednesday. Sun Journal photo by Tony Blasi