BURLINGTON — Sophomore pitcher Hailey Gorack turned slugger with back-to-back home runs in a 5-3 Lewis Mills win over Nonnewaug Wednesday afternoon at Lewis Mills High School.
The win kept the Spartans (14-3; 13-2 Berkshire League) on the edge of a hold-your-breath Berkshire League championship race down to the last three or four games with the chance of a three-way tie between Mills, Wamogo and Northwestern.
The Highlanders currently hold a one-game lead over Wamogo and Mills, but Northwestern and Wamogo play each other in the next-to-the-last regular-season game Monday. And there’s plenty of room for drama — a piece of it featuring Nonnewaug — in their other three games as well.
“We’re right there; we’re playing with the big teams,” said first-year Nonnewaug coach Luigi Velardi, whose team (11-7; 10-6 BL) had the Spartans locked in a 2-2 tie through the top of the fourth inning Wednesday after beating Shepaug, their prime competition for fourth place on Tuesday.
The Chiefs could make that statement huge with a win over Wamogo Friday while Shepaug gets a chance to do the same to Northwestern the same day.
Meanwhile, Lewis Mills, with back-to-back wins over Wamogo and Northwestern early this month, can only take care of business in its final three regular-season games, rooting for Nonnewaug and Shepaug Friday, then asking for a Wamogo win over Northwestern to back the Spartans into sole possession of the title.
Mills coach Chris Sawyer knows that tying with one or two of the teams is a more likely wish. In the meantime, he’s focusing on the Spartans’ Class M prospects, beginning with left-hander Gorack on the mound in games like Wednesday’s when his primary pitcher is senior all-star Mary-Kate Cormier.
“You’re just one injury away,” he said. “Mary-Kate is tremendous, but it’s good, especially in the tournament, to have a little double-barreled action. It keeps Mary-Kate fresh.”
Wednesday, Gorack did her job on the mound — 7 innings, 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks — then broke up the tie in the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run.
“I’ve pitched five or six games this year,” said Gorack, the Spartans’ leadoff batter (2-for-3), starting in right field when Cormier is on the mound. “I’ve had seven home runs.”
Cormier, playing third on Wednesday, scored first for Mills on a third-inning hit, followed by a walk to Coral Gorack and a two-run single by senior Chloe Brzoska (2-for-3), whose other major contribution was all-star fielding at first base.
After Nonnewaug freshman Brianna Hynds (2-for-2, double, run scored) led off with a hit in the top of the third inning, Brzoska dove for one would-be sacrifice pop bunt, gathered in a foul for the final out, then scooped up off-target throws later in the game.
“I’m a lefty, so they put me on first as a freshman and I’ve been there ever since,” Brzoska said.
“Chloe has good speed and she’s quick. She covers a lot of distance on bunts,” Sawyer said.
Down 2-0, the Chiefs scrambled for the tying runs in the top of the fourth on an error, a walk, a pair of wild pitches and a ground-out.
After Gorack’s first homer in the bottom of the inning, Spartan Makenzie Jones turned a one-out double into a run in the fifth on two wild pitches, then Gorack launched her second home run to the fence in the bottom of the sixth.
Hynds started the top of the seventh with a double, went to third on a sacrifice and home on a ground-out, but one more throw to Brzoska at first ended Wednesday’s Nonnewaug hopes.
In this season’s final stretch, championship/spoiler hopes for at least five teams, just keep on coming.