WINSTED — Lewis Mills baseball and softball fans all had a chance to go home really happy at Northwestern Monday afternoon.
On one side of the complex, Lewis Mills pitcher Mary-Kate Cormier and her defense held Northwestern’s previously-undefeated softball team (12-1) to a lone run in a 6-1 win, thrusting the Spartans (9-3; 8-2 Berkshire League) into the BL championship conversation along with Wamogo (9-3, 9-2 BL).
Before Monday, the Spartans nudged themselves back to a three-team race when they thrashed the Warriors 8-2 at Wamogo last Wednesday after losing to both Wamogo and Northwestern earlier in the season.
Nevetheless, now the Spartans have to look for help from the rest of the league for their title hopes.
In spite of Monday’s stunning loss, the Highlanders are still in control, with a 9-5 win at Wamogo two weeks ago and the possibility of a head-to-head knockout win against the Warriors in Northwestern’s final regular-season game if both teams win out until then.
On Northwestern’s baseball diamond Monday, the race looked simpler as the Highlanders (11-1) beat a tough Mills team (5-7, 6-3 BL).
Tied with Shepaug Valley (12-2; 12-1 BL) for the league lead, Northwestern’s task was to take care of business along with the Washington Spartans for a winner-take-all showdown at Northwestern Friday, May 17.
After beating Northwestern 2-1 last month, Shepaug kept the race on edge by giving up its only league loss, 1-0, to Housatonic last Tuesday.
“Every team has at least one good pitcher,” said Northwestern baseball coach Kevin Nelligan. “That’s what keeps the league exciting this year.”
Monday, Northwestern pitcher Drew Warren dominated with a sparkling line — 7 innings, 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 10 strikeouts, 1 walk — but three Mills pitchers — Sam Fitzsimons, Eric Ziff and Jeffrey Bluthe — worked hard to keep the Spartans in contention.
“We were right there,” said Mills coach Bob Swierbitowicz, whose team falls to 5-7. “We’ve played well both times against the league’s best team.”
“We got big hits when we needed them,” said Northwestern’s Nelligan.
Warren no-hit the Spartans for two innings until Eric Ziff launched a lone double deep into center field in the top of the third.
“As the season goes on, my fastball gains velocity,” said Warren, with a heater clocked in the upper 80s.
Northwestern’s Joey Grantmeyer came up with what seemed to be the first big hit in the first inning, but what might have been a two-run homer was ruled a ground rule double and left the bases loaded.
Next inning, an RBI walk did the trick for Northwestern. In the third, two more Highlander runs came in on an RBI groundout and ground rule double by Spencer Green.
Alberto Catalini capped a 3-for-3 day with a two-run single in the fourth.
“My Little League team in Stamford won states when I was growing up there,” said the precocious freshman whose family moved to Winsted when he was in middle school. “I’ve been playing with the Hit Club since I got here.”
Grantmeyer (2-for-3, 2 runs scored) finally got a no-argument solo homer in the bottom of the sixth.
“That might have been the deepest one ever,” said Coach Nelligan, citing Grantmeyer as “our RBI guy” with 22 in 12 games.
Meanwhile, Spartan bats came to life in the fourth inning for a run on hits by Owen Lacourciere (2 runs scored), James Gorski and Blair Harris and an RBI walk to Fitzsimons.
An error, RBI triple by Devin Shaffer and a wild pitch brought in two more Mills runs in the fifth before Warren slammed the door for the final two innings.
Monday at Northwestern High School the message was loud and clear: more than ever for the league’s softball and baseball title races, every game counts.