FARMINGDALE — The Mountain Valley Conference baseball championship has yet to be decided, but to this point in the season, Dirigo appears the team to beat.

After an opening day loss to St. Dominic, the Cougars have reeled off nine straight wins, the latest Saturday with an 11-1 decision against Hall-Dale, called after six innings due to the mercy rule.

Host Hall-Dale (6-3) was playing its fourth game in six days and didn’t have a lot of pitching left while the Cougars had ace Ben Holmes rested and ready. The Bulldogs started freshman left-hander Bobby Cumler and he pitched well through the first four innings, trailing 3-0.

“I thought he pitched great,” Hall-Dale coach Tim Johnson said. “He ran out of gas and lost the plate a little bit, but I thought he had them fooled.”

The Cougars loaded the bases against Cumler in the fifth before he gave way to junior Zac Plummer. Caleb Turner led the inning with an infield hit, his third single of the game. An error and walk to Holmes loaded the bases and that was it for Cumler, who allowed five hits, walked three and struck out four, three of those with his sharp-breaking curve.

Dirigo (9-1) broke the game open with seven runs in the fifth on just two hits, four walks and a hit batter. Brett Whittemore had the big hit of the inning, a two-run single.

Holmes (5-1) cruised through the first four innings before giving up a run on three hits in the fifth. He finished with 88 pitches, allowed four hits, walked two and struck out eight, mixing an above-average fastball with his curve.

“I couldn’t spot my fastball very well,” Holmes said. “That was not making me happy. The curve ball was dipping a little too early, too, but other than that I felt pretty good.”

Holmes is one of several baseball players who played for the state championship basketball team this past winter.

“It’s just like basketball,” Holmes said. “Same goal. We lost in the Western Maine finals last year (to St. Dom’s).”

The Bulldogs broke up Holmes’ shutout bid in the fifth and forced another inning. Brad Shepherd led off with a double to right-center and came home on Kurt Thiele’s second hit of the game. The Cougars pushed the lead to 10 runs in the top of the sixth with Holmes reached on an error and scored on Jack Brown’s base hit. In addition to Turner’s three hits, freshman Tyler Frost had a pair of singles and drove in a run and Chad Snowman had an RBI double.

“We plan on getting back to at least that game,” Dirigo coach Ryan Palmer said of the Western Maine finals. “But the ultimate goal is to be the last team standing and I think our team is the type of team that can get us there.”

Johnson, who is back this season for his fifth coaching stint with Hall-Dale, is pleased with his team’s progress.

“When we looked at the schedule, based on last year’s performance and all the struggles we had, both defensively and pitching . . . we actually prepared them for the possibility that we could be 1-5 through the first six (games). So we’re ahead of the game.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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