STANDISH, Maine — After not making the most of a bases-loaded, nobody-out threat in the first inning Saturday, the Dirigo of Dixfield baseball team knew such offensive squanders wouldn’t stand with a championship at stake.
Given a second chance an inning later, the Cougars capitalized with a three-run rally that propelled them to a 6-1 victory over Calais and their second Class C state title in three years at Saint Joseph’s College.
That uprising gave coach Ryan Palmer’s club a 4-0 lead, more than enough for senior righthander Ben Holmes, who pitched a five-hitter to improve his record to 12-1.
“That was so big,” said Holmes, who struck out eight batters and walked five. “Getting up 4-0 in the first two innings gave me confidence knowing that the team was behind me, and we didn’t look back from there.”
Calais, the three-time reigning Eastern C champion, ended its season at 18-2.
“For three years in a row we’ve fought to get here,” said Blue Devils’ coach Kenny Murphy, whose team also lost to Dirigo in the 2010 final. “Not everybody gets here. I’m proud of the seniors, we’re going to miss them.”
Dirigo (19-1) did scratch out one run in the bottom of the first when T.J. Frost scored from third on a two-out wild pitch by Calais senior righthander Adam Geel.
But after Calais stranded a pair of two-out baserunners in the top of the second, Dirigo extended its lead in the bottom of the inning, beginning as Tyler Frost reached on a dropped pop-up and Hunter Ross drew a one-out walk. T.J. Frost then lined an RBI single to center and Caleb Turner followed with a two-run double to deep center to make it 4-0.
“In the first inning we had a chance to score, I think we had the bases loaded the bases with no one out but we only came away with one run,” said Turner, a senior shortstop. “The momentum was still on our side but scoring some more runs in the next inning after that was big for us.”
Holmes struck out six of the first 10 batters he faced, but Calais reached him for a run in the top of the third to end his streak of innings without allowing an earned run at 31 1/3.
Joe Mitchell drew a one-out walk, then Geel singled to right-center to advance Mitchell to third with one out. Mitchell scored on a groundout to second by Lewis Francis to cut the gap to 4-1.
But that was it offensively for the Blue Devils, who left 10 runners on base for the game.
“Holmes pitched well today,” said Murphy. “He kept us off balance. You could tell he was getting tired toward the end because we were hitting the ball well but right at them. He pitched well early, and we left a lot of men on base.”
Turner hit his second double with two out in the Dirigo fourth, a flare to right that caromed away from Calais outfielder Alex Barnett, then scored when Chad Snowman grounded an RBI double down the left-field line. Holmes followed with a single to shallow center to drive home Snowman and extend the Cougars’ lead to 6-1.
T.J. Frost, Turner and Snowman, the top three batters in the Dirigo lineup, combined to go 6 for 10 at the plate with four runs scored and four RBIs.
“I think that’s a key for a lot of teams, you’ve got to get on base no matter how you can as the one, two and three batters,” said Turner. “If you can get a couple of runners on for Cody [St. Germain] and Ben, they’re going to clean you up.”
Geel (10-1) scattered eight hits while while striking out seven batters and walking four — three in the first two innings — to conclude his four-year varsity career with a 30-5 record.
“I don’t know if it was the mound, but Adam got the ball up more today than he usually does,” said Murphy. “He struggled a little bit early, and they hit the ball well. They had a couple of big hits.”
Geel and senior leftfielder Nathan Pike each singled twice to pace the Calais offense.