WINSTED - The Northwestern High School baseball team doesn't need any help scoring runs, but the Lewis Mills pitching staff gave it some Monday and the Spartans paid the price.
The Highlanders jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead and kept up the pressure, taking walks, getting big hits and piling up the runs in a 13-2 victory over the Spartans in a key Berkshire League matchup in Winsted.
The win puts Northwestern in the drivers seat for the BL crown with a 14-4 record overall and a 13-4 mark in the BL. A home win over Shepaug Valley on Wednesday and coach Tom Germano's crew will clinch the title outright.
The Highlanders are in control of their own destiny because of their balance as well as a pair of wins over the Spartans this season. Northwestern has been scoring runs for most of the season and is also getting some pretty solid starting pitching.
On Monday Zack August tossed a beauty, keeping Lewis Mills off balance and not giving them any help. The same could not be said the the Spartans.
Lewis Mills starter Zane Milbourn just couldn't find the strike zone wasn't around long. The Highlanders scored their first run on a wild pitch and Milbourn then walked in a pair. With the score 3-0 and the bases loaded Milbourn was done but Northwestern wasn't.
It was 4-0 after one and the Highlanders tacked on five more in the second thanks to some big hits and more walks by Spartans pitchers. Connor Guiheen ripped an RBI triple to the right-center field gap and Mike Jeffko followed with an RBI double to the same gap.
It was much of the same for the next few innings. Mills did score its first run in the third on a sacrifice fly but Northwestern went back to work and extended the lead to 12-1 after four.
About the only thing that could have saved Mills was the forcast for rain but it wasn't to be.
"The rain held off and the runs came pouring in for us," Germano said. "We are playing some good baseball at the right time of the season."
The right time of the season started Saturday when the Highlanders knocked off Winsted rival Gilbert, 4-0, thanks to a one-hitter by Jimi Phillips.
On Monday it was August's turn to give the Highlanders a chance to win and he did so with another solid start. Northwestern already has one of, if not the best hitting lineup in the Berkshire League and if it continues to get good pitching, its current three-game win streak could extend well into the postseason.
On the flip side Mills was counting on its defense and pitching early in the season and it was working to the tune of a 7-1 start. But the Spartans (12-6, 12-5) are 5-5 since and have had trouble throwing strikes in their last couple losses. Not the most potent offense in the league, Mills is going to have to get its pitching back on track to be a factor in the playoffs.