POLSON — The championships just keep coming for the Laurel Dodgers, and each one is more fun than the last.
Laurel won its third consecutive Montana/Alberta State A Legion baseball championship Monday with a dominating 8-1 victory over host Mission Valley (Polson). In doing so, the Dodgers became the first Class A team to win three state titles in a row since Scobey won five in 1976-1980.
"It seems crazy that we've won three in a row," said sixth-year Laurel coach Matt Kimmet. "Each one is just so enjoyable, and each time I'm so happy for the kids.
"These kids just love baseball, and they truly enjoying playing together. You just don't get these kind of opportunities very often, and the kids have done a great job of taking advantage of them."
Laurel (46-14) advances to the Class A Northwest Regional, which begins Friday in Roseburg, Ore. The Dodgers will face the host team from Roseburg at 8:30 p.m. Mountain time in the first round Friday.
After Mission Valley blanked Great Falls 12-0 earlier Monday to advance to the championship, Laurel quickly halted the Mariners' momentum behind the pitching of right-hander Cole Dooper.
Dooper blanked Mission Valley for the first six innings, and by then the Dodgers held a 7-0 lead. Dooper scattered nine hits, struck out five and walked two, going the distance to improve to 8-0 on the season and 2-0 in the tournament.
"Cole always gives us a good outing, and he did again today," Kimmet said. "He ran into a little trouble here and there, but he did a good job of damage control and the other kids made good plays behind him."
Dooper, who also threw a complete game in last Thursday's opening round, said he relaxed after the Dodgers gave him some early run support.
"We got some runs and I just tried to throw strikes," Dooper said. "I had three days' rest since the first time I pitched, so I felt good.
"Mission Valley is a good team. They hit the ball well. I just wanted to throw strikes and let my defense do their job."
The Dodgers scored single runs in the first, second and fourth innings, then blew the game open with four runs in the top of the sixth to go up 7-0.
Ryan Caron drove in the first two runs of the inning with a single, and Justin Linse and Zach Cortese also added RBI singles.
Caron finished 3 for 4 with two doubles and four RBIs. Cortese, Cody King and Kyler Worden added two hits each for the Dodgers.
"It took us a while to get started today, but we got the bats going eventually," said Caron, who drove in the winning run in last year's state championship game. "We just stayed positive in the dugout and stayed relaxed.
"Cole was doing a great job on the mound, so we knew if we got some runs we'd be in good shape."
All nine hits for Mission Valley (42-29) were singles. Dalton Molzhon was the lone Mariner with two hits.
Laurel played most of the game without standout David Swecker, who had homered in each of the Dodgers' first four games of the tournament.
Swecker was spiked on the hand by a Mission Valley infielder while sliding into second on a stolen base in the second inning. Swecker was taken to the emergency room, where he required six stitches on his left (non-throwing) hand.
The Dodgers are heading straight from Polson to Roseburg, an 11-hour trip.
"We didn't even think about Oregon before this tournament. We didn't want to look ahead ... we had to win this tournament first," Caron said. "Now we're looking forward to playing more baseball."