TURNER — Zak Koban said it was strange that almost everywhere he looked when he took the mound in the bottom of the third inning, he saw a teammate playing out of position.

The Mt. Blue pitcher might have felt unsure of the defense behind him, but he pitched like he was unfazed. He allowed Leavitt to score only one more run, and the Cougars overcame a one-run deficit to earn a 5-2 KVAC baseball win Saturday.

Koban, a senior, pitched 6 2/3 innings to notch his second win of the week. He held the Hornets (6-4) to two runs on three hits, while striking out two. He might have finished the game, but he reached his pitch count limit after the second out of the seventh.

“That’s the best he’s looked all year,” Cougars coach Rob Dippner said. “He’s worked really hard this whole offseason, and now he’s 2-0, two wins this week.”

In the top of the third inning, Mt. Blue (6-4) lost starting catcher, Hayden Durrell, for the remainder of the contest. Durrell bolted home trying to pull off a double steal. The Hornets, though, were ready, and threw the ball back to catcher Luke Gladu for a close play at the plate. Durrell was tagged out and ejected from the game for causing a collision with Gladu.

Mt. Blue replaced Durrell behind the plate with shortstop Hayden Dippner, a senior who had never caught for Koban and hadn’t played catcher since he was playing 14U baseball in Pennsylvania. Dippner mostly played catcher before moving to Maine, and he told Rob Dippner, his coach and dad, that filling in there was the team’s best option Saturday.


“He does love to catch,” Rob Dippner said. “And one of his best friends, Durrell, is our catcher, so (Hayden) always wants to outdo him when we’re doing stuff, so I think there’s a little rivalry there.

“I actually made another move, and he looked at me, he’s like, ‘No chance. I’ll go to catcher.’ So that’s what we went with.”

Hayden Dippner did well. He threw out a base runner trying to steal second to end the fifth inning, and Koban said that that main difference from his perspective was he had to waive off some of Hayden Dippner’s pitch calls, which is something he rarely does with Durrell.

The Cougars started Saturday’s game with several defensive players already out of position. Koban, the starting first baseman, was on the mound, and regular third baseman Zach Poisson didn’t dress for the game, so the right and left fielders were in new spots, and left fielder Ike Wrigley was at first base.

Dippner playing catcher forced more changes: third baseman Brody Walsh took over at shortstop, and Aiden Wilkins played third base.

“We had some things not go our way, in a sense, but the right call was made (on the play at the plate), and we had to adjust,” Rob Dippner said. “We had a sophomore, in Wilkins, playing a position he’s never played. We had no bench guys. Wilkins was here purely to pitch, if we needed.”


Koban said that although several players were in unfamiliar spots, the Cougars have played so much baseball together that they are able to adjust.

“We’re all baseball players, not position players,” Koban said.

With the new defensive setup, Koban gave up a double to Leavitt’s Colten Taylor in the third inning, and then walked two batters and hit two in the fourth to allow a run that cut Mt. Blue’s lead to 3-2.

Hornets coach Chris Cifelli said that only scoring one run with the bases loaded was a missed opportunity for Leavitt.

“Especially with him, with the way they were throwing, it would have been great to get a — we only got one that inning, so that was a chance to tie it up, and that changes everything that maybe both teams are going to do with their pitchers,” Cifelli said.

Koban then retired the final nine batters he faced, first getting of the bases-loaded jam in the fourth, pitching a pair of 1-2-3 innings and then the first two of the seventh inning.


“I thought he did great,” Hayden Dippner said. “I haven’t caught him, I’ve just been watching him from the field, but … he was able to hit spots and stay level-headed and perform at a high level.”

Wilkins relieved Koban and got the final out to earn the save.

“Wilkins, this is about the third or fourth time he’s come in to get us through a weird spot, and he did his job,” Rob Dippner said.

Koban also contributed at the plate, going 3 for 4 and scoring two runs.

Hayden Dippner had the biggest hit of the game, driving in two runs with a fourth-inning single off Leavitt starter Brandon Bilodeau that gave the Cougars a 3-1 lead.

“I was trying to be confident,” Hayden Dippner said. “He threw a lot of off-speeds with a lot of movement, so it definitely wasn’t easy to hit, but luckily I was able to make the best of it.”


“That opened it up a little bit, it was a 1-1 game at that point, and he had that hit to right,” Rob Dippner said. “His bat’s really coming alive. It was a little slow at the beginning of the season, but this last week, he’s come alive. It’s been good for us.”

Dippner recorded two hits and scored a run. Nolan Leso also had two hits and an RBI.

Taylor, Bilodeau and Connor DeCoster had Leavitt’s hits. DeCoster and Will Keach each drove in a run.

Bilodeau started on the mound and pitched four innings, striking out three and allowing three runs on five hits. Keach pitched a pair of scoreless innings, then Noah Carpenter pitched the seventh, allowing a hit and a walk, with both runners scoring on an error.

“I’ve been thrilled with our pitching,” Cifelli said. “I think they’ve battled. I think, for the most part, we’re pitching ahead. And I love the fight that even if something happens behind them, they come right back up and they’re pounding strikes. It’s given us a shot every game this year.”

The contest wrapped up four-game weeks for Leavitt and Mt. Blue, and both coaches are satisfied that their teams went 2-2 during the long week.


The Cougars beat Lewiston 10-5 on Monday, lost to a vengeful Oxford Hills 13-1 on Wednesday and dropped a 1-0 walk-off battle to Edward Little on Thursday. Mt. Blue entered the day ranked eighth in the Class A North Heal point standings. Eight teams from the region make the postseason.

“To get a win today, to go 2-2 this week and now 6-4 overall feels good because we’re clinging to the bottom of the Heal points, and every Heal point counts,” Rob Dippner said. “So when you beat a good Class B team, it’s going to help.”

Leavitt, ranked seventh in B South, defeated Erskine 7-2 on Monday and then beat Lewiston 13-12 in 10 innings on Wednesday before falling to Messalonskee 8-2 on Friday. The latter three opponents are from Class A.

“We were looking to go .500 this week,” Cifelli said. “Tough week, lots of good teams. This is kind of our Class A stretch right here. So we were trying to play well. And I think what we’re seeing right now is, you know, that next step, to take that next step to be playing with the big boys, what do we need to do? It is scoring runs, it’s limiting damage.

“I think we’ve gotten the pitching performances, so that’s the encouraging part, but, you know, give a little more run support and be a little cleaner in the field, and maybe we’ll come out with an extra one.”

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