Dirigo is 4-4 after eight games, but head coach Bob Karcher said that he things the Cougars might have a couple more wins if their bats were a little more potent.

“We’ve seen the three powerhouses in Lisbon, Monmouth and Mt. Abram, and we got Mt. Abram (in a 5-2 win),”  Karcher said. “We struggled in games with Winthrop and Spruce, but our defense has been outstanding. We gave up three runs to Spruce and lost 3-2. Against Winthrop, they scored on a walk-off. It was a tough loss and we’ve been struggling to make contact. We had 11 strikeouts against Winthrop, 13 against Spruce.”

On Friday, Dirigo defeated Carrabec 24-2 and notched 16 hits, an outburst that Karcher hopes catapults the Cougars into the second half of the season. 

“I hope that’s a sign that maybe the bats are coming around,” Karcher said. “When that happens, and with our defense, we’re going to be a tough out for teams.”

“Our defense is our strength, and our pitching has been good,” Karcher added. “It’s just our hitting has to catch up to what makes us strong and a good team. I think, hopefully, we’ll get it going.”

Several members of Dirigo’s Class C state champion basketball team in the winter are now contributing to the baseball team, including pitchers Charlie Houghton, Trent Holman and Trenton Hutchinson. 

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“We have strong pitchers. Trenton Hutchinson is a really good pitcher, Charlie is a good pitcher and Trent Holman has transformed himself into a good pitcher,” Karcher said. “He’s really come a long way, and he pitched really well in relief against Winthrop for 3 2/3 innings, and I wish we could have won for him.

“Dakota Tompkins is a really good catcher that has thrown out a lot of runners this year. We have a lot of bright spots and I think once we get the hitting going and get some wins under our belt we will be good.”

Karcher realizes that Dirigo competes in a tough Mountain Valley Conference, but he likes the team’s makeup and championship pedigree.

“They’re a good group of kids, good athletes, good people, and they know what it takes,” Karcher said. “They’re knowledgeable, and I’ve had that group of juniors since they were in eighth grade in baseball and I moved up with them. They had quite a season in basketball and we’re hoping that we can go a little farther in baseball than we did last year. We were up on Oak Hill last year with nine outs and we let it slip away. This year, I’d like to improve on that, go a little deeper and see what we can do.

“The MVC is tough but I feel like we match up with teams well. If we get a little help, maybe we get hot before the playoffs, we’re not going to be an easy out, either. We have good pitching and defense, which keeps you in most games.”

COUGARS FIND YOUNG PITCHERS

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Mt. Blue (4-5) entered the season with no varsity pitching experience on the roster. 

It was a concern for first-year head coach Rob Dippner, but over the offseason Brody Walsh and Dippner’s son, Hayden, started arm programs and worked with trainers on different aspects of pitching to prepare for the varsity mound.

Walsh has become a starter for the Cougars, while Dippner has become a closer, of sorts, closing wins against Hampden, Erskine and Lewiston. 

“The two that have stepped up and produced,” Dippner said. “I would say we’ve found some diamonds in the rough. Brody Walsh and Hayden Dippner have anchored the staff. Both of them in the offseason they got into arm care programs on their own and they put in the work — band work, plyo balls. They both pitched last year in JV and a little in summer Legion ball. We were hoping they’d be able to give us a spark.”

Nolan Leso, a freshman, also stepped into a starting pitcher role after the team’s lone senior, Evan Downing, was moved back to catcher before the Cougars’ game against Lewiston on Monday. Leso pitched five innings and got out of a couple jams as Mt. Blue took down the Blue Devils 6-4.

“He grew in height and strength and came into the season ready, and once Downing went to catcher he got into a starting role,” Dippner said. “That was a huge win for our program.”

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Downing started the season as a pitcher and left fielder, but after a few games the coaches and captains, including Downing, got together and decided he should move back behind the plate to the position where he’s most comfortable.

The senior missed the opening week of preseason for pitchers and catchers because he was at a weightlifting meet. Last summer at USA Powerlifting High School Nationals, Downing broke the national squat record in the 18-19-year-old, 181-pound division with a top weight of 556.6 pounds. 

“He’s a great athlete and a grinder kid,” Dippner said. “His involvement in weighttraining has spearheaded a lot of our kids to also take up weight training. We’re lifting, getting stronger, and it’s been fun to see how it’s translating.”

SOPHOMORE CONNECTION HELPING KNIGHTS

Poland sophomores Adam Grawjanski, a pitcher, and catcher Regan Cohen have a strong friendship off the field that translates on the diamond. 

“I have a great tandem with Adam Gwarjanski on the mound and Regan Cohen, who catches him,” Poland coach Charlie Pray said. “They’re both sophomores, they’re best friends and have been playing together their whole lives. You can tell when they’re playing that they are so in sync. Adam has an outstanding knowledge of baseball and all things that go into being a catcher at this level, but his connection with Regan is next level. There’s another level of unspoken communication between the two.”

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The tandem have been a part of the Knights’ 5-4 start to the season, which has included some high highs and low lows. 

“We’ve had some big wins so far,” Pray said. “We had a walk-off win over Lake Region, then the next day we had the walk-off home run from Hunter Gibson over Mt. Blue, a Class A team. We talked a lot about if that is going to be the high point of the season or a highlight. The boys have focused on making that a highlight of the season. They’re focused on being better than they were against Mt. Blue.

“We had a couple games against Yarmouth and Freeport and we lost and we talked about if that’s going to be the low point or if it will define us. They’ve done a great job of buying into being better than the day before.”

Pray said the team is one of the most vocal and energetic he’s coached at Poland. The postseason is an open tournament this year, so the goal for the Knights is to clinch a home playoff game. 

“The team has done a great job through nine games of working hard and really paying attention to one of our mantras, which is, ‘Get better every day,’” Pray said.

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