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Between The Lines 5/8/2013

POSTED May 08, 2013
BY John Nestor
Twitter: @nestorjdn

Between The Lines 5/8/13

Nothing urgent, no pressing topics this week, just a spring grab bag of items as things are really picking up on the sports scenes both local and national.

Some things I am keeping an eye one include:

THE PLAYERS: The PGA Tour likes to tout the Players Championship as the "Fifth Major" but that's just hype. There are four majors and only need to be four, but the Players is a big event with a great field and will help develop some interesting story lines on tour as things shape up ahead of the U.S. Open next month. Tiger has won the Players just once and doesn't have a great track-record at TPC Sawgrass so it will be interesting to see where his game is. I think Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson could use a good week more than Tiger needs one.

NBA Playoffs: Well it appears the Chicago Bulls are at least going to make the Miami Heat work to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and panic will really hit South Beach if the Heat somehow fall behind 0-2. Can the banged-up Bulls keep it up or will the Game 1 loss be a wake-up call for the well-rested Heat.

A Knicks-Heat Eastern Conference Final would have a lot of juice, but the Bulls and Indiana Pacers do not appear willing to make it easy.

In the West, Kevin Durant is the player to watch to see if the Thunder can make a run to the Finals without Russell Westbrook. Durant now gets to see what is was like for LeBron to have to carry the load when he was in Cleveland and it will be interesting to see how Durant responds.

TRIPLE CROWN: I had no real routing interest for Saturday's Kentucky Derby but I always like to watch and Orb's run from the back of the pack in the mud at Churchill Downs was fantastic. In always root for the Derby winner to win the Triple Crown, which we have not had since Affirmed in 1978, so I'll be on Orb for the Preakness in two weeks.

THE LOCAL SCENE: Torrington softball and Northwestern baseball are still unbeaten and will be fun to watch as the go for top seeds in the state tournament. Thomaston has BL contenders in both its baseball and softball teams and the BL boys tennis race is a tight one with Lewis Mills, Shepaug and Housatonic all in the mix with Northwestern a solid team ready to play spoiler. 

Local youth leagues are in full swing as I well know with a soccer player (Samantha), baseball player (Jack) and Lacrosse player (James) in the house. I don't think I appreciated the break between the end of the winter season and beginning of spring enough!

LEWIS MILLS LAX: The Lewis Mills boys lacrosse team looks to be well on its way to returning to the state tournament. The Spartans are 6-3 after an 18-1 victory over Housatonic Regional on Tuesday and have some winnable games on the horizon.

While nothing is guaranteed, Mills should win at least five of its final seven games of the regular season, which would put the firmly in the field for the Class S state tournament. The Spartans made the tournament in 2011 with a record of 10-5 and should surpass that win total this season.

Assistant coach Mike Baden feels this year's team has more talent than the playoff team of 2011 but the current group of Spartans need to keep developing a toughness and grit that they will need when things don't always go their way in big games down the stretch of the regular season and state tournament.

The Lewis Mills girls lacrosse team is also putting together a strong season and is 7-3 so far this season.

The Spartans are continuing a steady climb under coach Killeen Leonard and are two wins away from surpassing last year's regular-season win total (8-8) and have won five of their last six after a 13-9 victory at Housatonic Regional on Tuesday.

Lewis Mills went 4-11-1 (2010) and 2-13 (2011) before making the state tournament last season. The Spartans won a 16 vs. 17 matchup with Housatonic in the Class S tournament last season before bowing out to top-seeded Haddam Killingworth.

This year the Spartans are in position for a much better seed and three of their final four regular-season game are against teams they have already defeated this season. With just three seniors on a roster of 37 players, the future looks bright for the Spartans girls lacrosse.

TOURNEY BOUND: Some members of the 2012 Torrington Titans are headed to postseason play as the Columbia University baseball team captured the Ivy League championship this past weekend.

Led by Jordan Serena and Gus Craig, the Columbia baseball team is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008 after the Lions swept the Dartmouth Big Green Saturday to earn the 2013 Ivy League Baseball Championship. Columbia won game one in 10 innings, 6-5, and then scored six runs in the seventh inning en route to a 12-5 victory in game two.

The Lions (26-19, 16-4 Ivy) captured their 11th Ivy League title in program history and posted a program-best 16 conference wins during the regular season. Columbia can now rest up as it waits for the NCAA to announce the Division I tournament field on May 27.

Craig was the hero in game one against Dartmouth as he came through with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 10th to put the Lions ahead in the championship series. In game two, Serena went 4-for-6 with an RBI and two runs scored.

Another former Titan, Alec Palioca, is headed to the Division III NCAA Tournament as top-seeded Wheaton College, ranked 14th in the latest national poll, won its 13th conference title in the 15-year history of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) with a 6-3 victory in the championship game over second-seeded MIT on Saturday evening at Sidell Stadium.

The Lyons (30-10) earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament with the win and will make their 12th appearance in program history at the New England Regionals on Wednesday, May 15. Palioca, who along with Tyler Dierke, gave the Titans arguably the best one-two starting pitcher combo in the FCBL last season, went 6-1 with a 2.52 ERA in 10 games for Wheaton, including nine starts.

NEWS AND NOTES: The Torrington High baseball team has hit the skids since evening its record at 6-6. The Red Raiders have gone quiet at the plate and dropped three straight to fall to 6-9. Torrington, which has been shutout twice and scored three runs in its other game in the skid, needs two wins in its final five games to make the Class L tournament... The Harwinton Orioles (A Ball) have been playing outstanding baseball to start the season! The Orioles have a potent lineup at the plate and play solid defense, turning a great first baseman flip to a second baseman covering first play in their recent game. Not bad for 6, 7-year-olds! Go Orioles!... The Mets are in a rebuilding mode but have played respectable baseball so far and Mets fans have to love what they are seeing from New London native Matt Harvey. On Tuesday night Harvey had a perfect game going until an infield single by Alex Rios with two outs in the seventh. Harvey allowed just the one hit in nine innings and improved to 4-0 with a 1.28 ERA after seven starts. He has yielded only 22 hits in 49 1/3 innings with 58 strike outs and 12 walks... At 14-0 the Northwestern Regional baseball team leads the Berkshire League by one game over Thomaston and is in the running for the top seed in Class M. NVL-leading Wolcott led by Manny Cruz is 15-0 and the Highlanders' main competition for the top spot. ... question, comment, ideas to and follow on Twitter at @nestorjdn.

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